John Glenn Set the Benchmark
For the Definition of Hero

By Jim Berlin

The word “hero” gets tossed around nowadays like a Frisbee at a family picnic. It has lost its meaning.

Every veteran, every police officer and firefighter – all heroes.

They are not. I’ve worn three uniforms over my lifetime: Marine, big-city street cop, United Nations police officer in Bosnia…and I’m no hero. I always did my duty, and occasionally some of the things I did might be worthy of a sloppy salute, but real heroes are a billion dollars a dozen.

John Glenn was a hero. He set the benchmark for the word.

A Marine fighter pilot in WWII and Korea, first American to orbit the Earth, a U.S. senator for 25 years, an astronaut encore at age 77.

When Glenn circled the planet in 1962 and it appeared his damaged craft might disintegrate during re-entry, the first readable transmission after the radio blackout was Mr. Glenn humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Humming.

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Who the hell has that kind of courage, that casual aplomb in the face of losing his very existence?

Only a hero.

Unless you begin the conversation with a name like his, don’t talk to me about heroes.

Heroes are hard to come by. But when we do come by one, they are worth celebrating.

John Glenn. Thank you, sir.

You are an American hero.