Darryl Bollinger, Author

My Hero

Who is your hero?

These days, I think a lot of people have a hard time coming up with the answer to that question. Seems like we’re lacking a lot of genuine heroes in this world.

The first reaction is to try and think of the usual familial candidates. Fathers, mothers, brothers. I love my brother, and no offense, but I wouldn’t say that he’s a hero.

My mother is a finalist and worthy of consideration. She has a great faith, one that I envy.

My dad, God rest his soul, is also on the short list. He fought for our country in World War II and he instilled a lot of good values in me, values that I haven’t always lived up to, but try.

Then, I try to think of what I call “world savers.” You know, someone like Jonas Salk, who discovered the first polio vaccine. Again, not a lot of names come to mind.

As I start casting around, someone keeps popping up in my mind. He’s young, awful young to be regarded as a hero. Is he too young? Do you have to be old to be a hero? I don’t think so.

He’s not a world saver. Hasn’t invented a cure for cancer, at least not that I know of. But he did fight cancer. It was nasty, and his doctor gave him a fifty-fifty chance of living. A coin toss. Not very good odds, especially when you are only twenty years old. But he managed to win. It’s been over five years, so I hope and pray there won’t be a rematch.

He hasn’t given millions of dollars to any cause. Not that he wouldn’t, but he only earns $30,000 a year. Hard to give away a lot of money on that salary.

But being a hero is not about money. There’s a lot more to it than that. A hero is someone who inspires us to do better; someone with a truly unselfish attitude. A hero is someone who does something simply for the pure good, not for fame or fortune.

Like I said, hard to find these days.

My hero is a firefighter, the breed that runs into a burning building, not away from it. Hard for me to imagine. Avoiding fire has to be one of our most basic, primal instincts. Overcoming that to deliberately go into a raging fire goes against everything in our DNA. Yet, there are those who do it.

He was hurt recently in a fire, second and third-degree burns on his ears. Fortunately, it wasn’t worse, though it easily could have been. He was the first one in a burning house, holding the nozzle on the hose. The fire was so hot, portions of his Nomex hood basically melted the bottom of his ears.

I told him next time, not to be so quick to grab the nozzle and go in. Know what he told me?

“That’s my job, Dad.”

There’s my hero. And I couldn’t be prouder.