Webster defines the word hero as follows: Definition of hero. plural heroes. a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. b : an illustrious warrior. c : a person admired for achievements and noble qualities. We all had heroes growing up or at least I did. If you are my age, you probably remember Steve Austin. No not the Texas rattle snake, Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man. For those who don’t know, Steve was an astronaut who was in a horrible accident that cost him his right arm, both legs and his left eye. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We can make him better that he was before. Better, Stronger, Faster…” The world’s first Bionic Man or Cyborg. That was one of he few television shows my dad allowed us to watch. I know some of you may find this hard to believe but, in those days most usually had only on TV in the house and Dad was in control of what we watched. Steve had the strength of Superman, could run 60 miles an hour and could zoom in on any target from miles away with his bionic eye. Man, I used to love to watch that show!! He was the man!! A few years back, I was able to get the entire DVD box set of the series. I am still a nerd at heart y’all. In elementary school, Steve Austin was my hero. He wasn’t real though, just an actor but my hero non the less.
As I got into my teens, my heroes became sports figures. I had one for every sport. Nolan Ryan in baseball, Joe Montana in football and Dr J in basketball are some that come to mind. Each, at least to me, were the very best at their sport. Nolan Ryan is who I emulated when I pitched in baseball. Oh how I wanted to be able to throw it 95+ and be that intimidating on the mound. I could throw hard but not Nolan hard. Here is me, back in the day, doing my best Nolan Ryan impression:
Another sports hero of mine was a little closer to home. In 1980, a skinny 18-year-old kid from Georgia named John Bond became the quarterback of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and led them to the best season in my life time, 9-2. That is the year that the Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 6-3 and snapped a 28 game win streak. From that point on John Bond could do no wrong in my eyes. He was, and still is in my mind, the standard that Bulldog quarterbacks are held up to. Dak Prescott was great and set all kinds of record for the Bulldogs but, he never beat Alabama! John Bond was my hero and is still high on the list.
In high school, I was a pretty good baseball player. I pitched and because of that, I was on the local news a lot. Whether it be the newspaper or the local TV stations, I seemed to get mentioned whenever I pitched. A junior high kid once asked me to autograph my picture in the annual for him. (My first ever haha). My high school has always had a good baseball program. We were led by Coach Raymond Faulkner. He was a mountain of man with the deepest baritone voice you could imagine. When he spoke, EVERYONE listened. In my high school days, I thought Coach Faulkner did not like me very much. He was always on my about something and no matter how good I thought I had done in a game, he would not give me praise. He would always say, “You did ok” or “You need to work harder”. Between he and my dad, I could never get the big head. I once pitched a game were I struck out 11, walked 2, gave up 8 hits in 7 innings, and had 3 RBI in a game we won. 3-2. Coach never acknowledged I had a good game and all my dad could talk about was the 8 hit I gave up. I asked Coach once why he did not like me and he let me in on a little secret years after I graduated. He said, “Son, I liked you! Whether you knew it or not, you were a hero to the kids younger than you at this school. They looked up to you, wanted to be just like you in baseball. It was my job to keep you close to the ground so you could be the hero they deserved.” I never forgot that little talk we had. Coach has passed on but I hope he and his family knows how much he influenced all the kids he taught and coached. Coach was my hero but I didn’t even realize it at the time.
I think I was my younger brother’s hero at some point in his life. I guess at one time or another, little brothers do look up to their older brothers. My brother joined the army shortly after high school and was on active duty when the first Gulf War in the middle east started. My brother was in the regiment that pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and helped end that war. My brother then returned home to his new wife, his newly born baby girl and finished out his tour in Texas. Shortly after he returned home, he and his bride had another baby girl, 11 months after the first one. My brother was now out of the army, married with 2 baby girls and no formal education to fall back on. He worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs, just to make the ends meet. He took care of his family then and is now a rock for our family. My two nieces graduated from college and are two of the coolest girls I know! I may have once been his hero, but now, he is my hero.
You go from having heroes to being one for somebody, even though you may not know it. Most dad’s and mom’s become heroes to their children. They are the first Superman and Wonder Woman they know. I look back in awe at how my parents raised 3 kids and we never wanted for anything. We were not rich by any means but we never did not have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, shoes on our feet and food in our bellies. They showered us with love everyday of our lives. They were there for the good times and bad times in our lives. They patted us on the back when we did well and paddled our bottoms when we didn’t. Both of them worked 40+ hours a week but found time to help us with our homework, come to our sporting events and dance recitals for my sister. They were there when I graduated college, got my first job, got laid off from another job and helped financially when I need it most. They were there for the birth of my son (My Mom was actually in the birthing room when he was born). They showed all of their grandchildren all the love they could ever hope for! They are what I strive to be each and everyday of my life. They aren’t just my parents, they are my friends and my ultimate heroes! I could never repay them for all they have sacrificed for me. I am the man I am today because of them. I love them with all my heart and appreciate them more than they will ever know. I have been lucky enough to have them both for over 52 years.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Our heroes changes as we mature and the older we get, the more real they become. In everything you do in life, do it to the best of your ability, be the best person you can be and always do things the right way. You may never know who is watching you, emulating everything you do, trying to be just like you. You may not know that someone looks at you and says, “That is my hero.”