Editorial – Heroes

Hero. The word gets used a lot. There are sports heroes and action heroes, hero sandwiches and superheroes. And now, apparently, there are UFC heroes–but a recent commercial for them only highlighted how far removed they are from what a real hero is.

The UFC is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, an entity that, according to their website, is ?the world’s leading mixed martial arts sports association? (1). Mixed martial arts is a combat sport in which competitors use a variety of fighting techniques: wrestling, jiu-jitsu, karate, kickboxing, judo, and boxing (among others) in supervised matches. On their website, even actor Jason Statham refers to the UFC fighters as ?heroes,? and commercials for upcoming matches encourage viewers to watch their heroes at work.

Like ancient Roman wrestlers, modern-day boxers, and all manner of athletes between, the UFC fighters are admired for their physical feats. There’s no doubt that they are dedicated athletes who train hard to excel at their sport. But heroes? Not even close.

It’s true that heroes, like athletes, are noted for their bravery, their courage, their willingness to risk injury–even death–in contests of strength. But That’s where the similarity ends. Because real heroes don’t put themselves at risk for money or glory: real heroes are the people who put their lives on the line for someone else.

People like those who, in June, received Decorations for Bravery in a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

People like 23-year-old Rachel Davis, who was awarded a posthumous Medal of Bravery after she lost her life defending a teenage boy against a gang assault outside a nightclub in Vancouver, B.C.

People like Rocky Hanson and Bradley Patrick Roy Smith, both of Edmonton, who, while visiting relatives in a seniors? residence, were alerted to a fire and ran back inside the burning, smoke-filled building to evacuate several residents before firefighters arrived.

People like 17-year-old Osman Hersi of Toronto, who rescued a blind man who fell onto the tracks at a busy subway station. On his way to school, the teenager saw the man fall off the edge of the platform and onto the tracks. Putting his own safety aside, Mr. Hersi jumped onto the subway tracks and helped the victim onto the platform just moments before a train sped into the station.

And people like Charles Fran├žois Pelletier, of Victoria, B.C. In 2004, Mr. Pelletier was volunteering with the United Nations in Bukavu, Congo. When a gun battle broke out between rebels and the Congolese army, Mr. Pelletier helped evacuate 42 civilians from the Orchid Hotel. He guided the group to a safer position within the hotel, protecting them from gunfire and mortar rounds, and then acted as a human shield as he helped the fleeing occupants across an open yard to the safety of armoured personnel carriers.

These are the real heroes; they and the 31 others who received Medals of Bravery (and one Star of Courage) on June 15. For them, there are no multi-million dollar endorsement deals; no TV commercials. But they still stand head and shoulders above the so-called sports heroes and action stars. Miles above.

(1) Ultimate Fighting Championship. ?The New UFC Factsheet.? Retrieved August 30, 2007, from http://www.ufc.com/index.cfm?fa=LearnUFC.FactSheet