what is a hero

What Is a Hero?

What is a hero? This story illustrates it. Tet is the Vietnamese New Year and the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture. Every year during the Vietnam War, fighting would stop for the celebration. However, in 1968, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) took advantage of the cease-fire with a countrywide sneak attack of South Vietnamese, American, and allied forces. The onslaught is known as the “Tet Offensive.”

As the NVA and VC overwhelmed the city of Chau Phu, they met U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Drew Dix, a Green Beret who’d been called on to help defend the city. He heard of a nurse being held captive, so he organized a group of South Vietnamese soldiers and rescued her. Dix then voluntarily returned to the city to rescue captive civilian workers. When he arrived, he faced intense machine gunfire. Although Dix didn’t know how many enemy forces were inside, he personally stormed the building where the captives were held. He killed six VC soldiers and rescued two civilians. But he wasn’t finished yet.

The following day, Dix again voluntarily put together a force of 20 soldiers and fought the Viet Cong out of several buildings in the city while under intense fire. He assaulted enemy forces that had taken the home of a deputy province chief. He was able to save the wife and children. His bravery and success inspired the South Vietnamese soldiers. In those few days, Army Staff Sergeant Dix rescued 14 free world citizens. He would later receive the Medal of Honor for valor.

There have been 3,525 recipients of the Medal of Honor since the first was awarded during the Civil War. When people ask, “What is a hero?” Medal of Honor recipients come to mind. And Medal of Honor recipients have common characteristics—characteristics we can emulate as dads. Here are 3 of them.


All soldiers, particularly those who fight in combat, deserve our deepest respect. Stepping onto a battlefield alone is a courageous act. The acts of Medal of Honor recipients stretch beyond normal. I’m sure they had fear inside them somewhere, but it didn’t rule them. When they commanded themselves to go, fear was not strong enough to hold them back. We need to confront our own fears that keep us from experiencing life at its best. Whether we’re holding on to past hurts, an old secret we’re afraid to confess, or hesitance to take a career risk, we need to confront it. Our courage emboldens our kids with courage.


In every Medal of Honor story, the recipient was able to think clearly and decisively under fire. These people assessed the situation, reduced their vulnerabilities, and harnessed their strengths to achieve the best possible outcome. It’s that kind of composure that saves lives in combat. There may be a certain natural ability to respond that way; however, there is a reason soldiers train intensely. It is for situations that require that type of thinking. Our families need us to use these skills when they face certain situations. Think through the difficulties or crises that may strike your family. Prepare your heart and mind so you can show composure when they hit.

Willingness to Go Beyond the Call

Finally, Medal of Honor recipients do things beyond the call of duty. In other words, it would have been highly acceptable had they stopped short of what they had done. But they didn’t stop. They went as far as they could to protect, rescue, survive, or win. It was a mindset of serving those around me, serving them again, and then serving them some more. They knew there was always something else they could do—and they did it. As dads, we can do the job and be done, or we can continually ask the question: “What else can I do?” And then, we can do it.

Sound off: What is a hero in your opinion?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Who is a hero to you?”