The title ‘Hero’ is bandied about every day but what does that mean?
By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | November 14, 2013
If you had asked me at age seven who my hero was I would not have hesitated to tell you that Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Sky King and Superman were at the top of my list. A few years later Jimmy Stewart, John Glenn and John Wayne would have topped my short list.
My image of heroes became somewhat tarnished, though, after I learned John Wayne was never in the military at all. That great big six-foot-four-inch Duke who played in “The Sands of Iwo Jima” and “The Green Berets” ignored letters from the Selective Service and then applied for deferments to get out of any service at all. That was an eye-opener for me – and it hurt; I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach.
Another man who came close to John Wayne was my own father, a real man I never really thought about until I hit my teens. My dad was over six feet tall, looked a bit like Wayne and told many more true adventure stories than I can remember. He and my mom split up, though, when I was nineteen and living temporarily in Germany. Upon my arrival back at home I called to let mom know we were safe – only now my dad and little brother lived there. She drove over to see us and my father exploded – he dragged her out of the house by her hair and beat and punched her to her car leaving black clumps of hair in the yard. Needless to say, my father-hero crumbled to dust in one appalling afternoon.
Since that time I have narrowed my view of heroes, somewhat. There are no celebrities or pop stars, no fake TV heroes and no sports-playing millionaires and no flash-in-the-pan demagogues on my inventory.
Where are my heroes? My heroes are found among noble citizenry:
Mrs. T. – Now Deceased
The mother of four – one having cerebral palsy – and abandoned by her husband who managed to care for the children and work as a nurse day by day. Mrs. T. not only managed but excelled in money management and raised four exceptionally talented children. Doctors wanted her to put her child with cerebral palsy in a hospital and leave him there because he would have a short, empty life-span. She flatly refused and her son, under her nurturance, thrived and went on to college, raised a family and has become an artist. Mrs. T. took many under her nurturing wing and fostered belief in one’s self, of which I am one. By her example, she remains in my memory and heart, an inspiring woman today and, in my opinion, is a full-fledged hero.
Mrs. A. – Steadfast
Mrs. A. was dealing with what I considered to be an impossible situation at home. Her husband became addicted to drugs and the impossible situation quickly became much worse. The husband left, they lost their home, all their household goods, their car, their family dog and ended up in a shelter for months. While in the shelter they were under constant scrutiny by the shelter staff and there were rules for every moment of the day: When and what they could eat, what toys her children were allowed to have, etc. The staff seemed to try their best to remove every vestige of remaining dignity. While in the shelter they were infested with bed bugs and fumigated repeatedly. Mrs. A. finally got an apartment for her family and they began to piece together their lives back together. Her aging mother who was (and still is) abusive to her came to live with her and made life more difficult again as it has become apparent she probably has Alzheimer’s. Through it all, Mrs. A. has continued to place the need of others above her own. She has dealt with her mother’s abuse with incredible restraint, which is more than I could ever do. Mrs. A. is most definitely a hero in my book.
These are silent heroes that will never reach the headlines and few will ever be touted on morning news stories but they are no less a hero than the person who dives into a sinking car to rescue a parent and child or the public servant who runs back into a burning building for one last check. These are real people – and they walk among us.
Who were your heroes as a child? Who are your heroes now? Talking point with children, ask them the same and open up a dialog.
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Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Jackie writes these ‘Reminders’ for parents who attend the online support groups. To receive the ‘Reminder,’ send her a message. We do not sell or share your e-mail address to other entities.