Webster defines “hero” as 1. A mythological or legendary figure of great strength or ability; 2. A man admired for his achievements and qualities; 3.The chief male character in a literary or dramatic work. We honor Heros in wars because they have done extra ordinary feats to save the lives of others, whether directly or indirectly.

When some extremely well trained pilot manages to crash 5 multi-million dollar aircraft and survive, he can be called lucky–incompetent, but lucky nonetheless. The only people who would logically regard him as a hero would be the management of the company who sold the aircraft to the US Government, and had to replace these aircraft at significant profit to their company. Thus, to admire McCain for his achievements and qualities is to admire failure, lack of skill, and yeah, incompetence. Since when are these admirable qualities?

A man who defends his wounded buddies against the enemy at the peril of his own life, He is a “Hero.” A fireman who charges into a burning building to save human lives, despite the fact that this is part of his job, well, he can be called “Heroic.” But if he runs into that burning building to save some money stored in someone’s sugar bowl, we would call him a fool, wouldn’t we? Nothing heroic about that, is there?

And you say that McCain refused repatriation from the prison camp, purportedly because he claimed that he would not go until all his co-prisoners went too, and that makes him “Heroic.” If any of you have been involved in a crash of a fighter jet, you know it is a terrifying experience. Your expectations of survival are slim or none, and when you DO survive, you change your underwear and go on, complete with new and more terrifying nightmares.

Perhaps McCain knew that his luck may have run out, and as bad as the prison camp was, the thought of climbing into another plane and risking another crash was more terrifying than staying in the camp. I cannot find anything heroic about that, can you? I would call it choosing the lesser of two evils. If not, then why isn’t every prisoner of war considered a hero?

As a relative of a WW2 Bombadier who was in the 8th Air Force, I was privileged to be allowed to join the alumni of his bomb group–the 381st. I was honored to sit at the table with some of the survivors, the pilots, navigators, and gunners of B 17s who had flown missions over occupied Europe during the Second World War. These were, in my mind, noble men, and heros one and all, for to go up on mission after mission when the casualty rate was 80% took some kind of extraordinary bravery.

When I called one of them a hero in our conversation, he said: “No, I am not a hero, and no man here would consider himself a hero. We were just doing our job and hoping to be lucky enough to get back home. We aren’t heros.” My Uncle was killed on a bombing mission, and I am sure he did not consider himself a hero either. Right up to the time his bomber cartwheeled into the ground in a failed landing attempt, I am sure he considered himself lucky to have survived the mission and was thinking: “Only 34 more and I can go home.” Sitting in the plexiglass nose of a B17 on a metal card chair jammed into a space with twin 50 caliber machine guns, flight controls and a Norton Bombsight, he could not have felt heroic in any sense of the word. He too was just doing his job.

So when McCain allows the term “Hero” to be applied to himself, he dishonors all those who truly deserve that description. If you want to call him anything, call him incompetent, inept, or afraid, because he was all of those and worse. If you ever met him in person, as I have, perhaps you would see him for what he really is–just another slimy politician capitalizing on skewed facts which portray him for something other than what he really is.