What is a hero?

Stars and Stripes asked three members of Congress who have served in the military that question, and here's what they said:

Sen. Daniel InouyeWorld War II veteran

My answer to “what to you is a hero” is very simple and easy one – my parents. While they have since passed away, they served as my role models and my guiding lights. My father worked two jobs to ensure that my mother could remain home to raise all of the children. My mother took on a substantial responsibility in raising all of us. She was a gentle and strong woman. My father was not a highly educated man, but he possessed strong values of loyalty, obligation, and honor which I have tried my best to carry with me. I remember his words as I left home to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He told me – “America has been very good to the Inouye family. We have a debt to pay. If you are called upon to give your life to defend this country, then it is what you must do. Do not dishonor your family and do not dishonor your country.” I never forgot his words.

Sen. John McCainVietnam war veteran

What is a hero to me? As memorable as such things are it’s not heroic to hit a two run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when your team is down a run. Heroism is another, rarer order of human endeavor than the most storied achievements of skill, fortitude and intelligence; rarer even than a show of courage. For heroism must have as its object something other than success, reward, renown. It must, at least for a moment, overcome the strongest instincts of human nature and value someone or some virtue more than self-interest. Heroism risks self-interest for the sake of that other value. Even the instinct for self-preservation cannot constrain it. We are born with one nature, selfish and acquisitive, and we build our second nature, our character. Selflessness is the highest quality of a well built character. Heroism is its purest expression. And love is its cause.

Rep. Patrick MurphyIraq war veteran

To me, a hero is someone who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his fellow servicemen. A hero is someone like Richard Gresko, a Vietnam-era Marine who, in 1970, threw himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his fellow Marines. It is a miracle that he survived. Despite the fact that he lives in constant pain from the injuries he sustained that night, Sgt. Gresko is adamant that he would do it again. His instincts told him to run from that grenade, but Gresko says, “You have to overcome that. You know you're gonna die, but you have to protect your men. . .Sometimes the whole is more important than the one.” Sgt. Gresko was awarded the Navy Cross, but I firmly believe that his heroic actions deserve the Medal of Honor. Our nation must do right by this hero whose actions define the phrase “above and beyond the call of duty.” As a U.S. Army veteran and now, a U.S. Congressman, I’m working hard to make sure he gets the recognition he deserves. Sgt. Richard Gresko is a hero.

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