April 16th, 2015 1:56am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Most of us have heroes. Mine include Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Churchill, Harry Truman, JFK, Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Sacajawea, and Grace Hopper (Google her). 

Sometimes a person becomes a hero because of a lifetime of work. Martin Luther King devoted his life to seeking equality through non-violent means.

Sometimes one becomes a hero by making a difficult, but courageous decision. President Truman ordered U.S. forces to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II and eliminate the need for a bloody ground invasion of Japan that likely would have killed millions.

Sometimes a person becomes a hero by risking their life to accomplish something great.   Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had no guarantee that the Lunar Module that landed on the moon would be able to blast off and reconnect with the orbiting space capsule.

A person may become a hero by taking a stand that may have severe consequences for them. Rosa Parks risked jail by choosing to sit in the front of a public bus. 

Sometimes a person becomes a hero by thinking outside the box. Albert Einstein dared to think about space and time in a different way, and changed the way we see the universe.

And sometimes an average person becomes a hero by standing up for or rescuing another in spite of the danger. A woman falls onto the subway tracks as a train approaches. A man jumps in to help her get out of danger. Often these heroes say they are not heroes at all – they did what any normal person would have done.

A person may become a hero because of a natural talent or because of a skill gained as the result of decades of hard work. Or both. Chuck Berry could “play a guitar just like a ringing a bell.” If you don’t think that takes talent, try playing Johnny B. Goode on a guitar at his speed.

You may become a hero simply by believing in yourself. On February 15, 1978, an unknown 197 pound kid won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship by closing in on the much larger and quicker Muhammad Ali for fifteen rounds. Spinks had not even fought in the heavyweight division at the 1976 Olympic Games and had only eight professional fights when he fought Ali. 

There is one more type of hero. You can’t place this kind of hero in the company of the others, but they deserve mention. These are the daredevils. They risk their lives – not to accomplish something great like walking on the moon – but simply to tempt fate or set records that are ultimately not very important. They are the thrill seekers. Think Evel Knievel.

And when you combine daredevil with a creative mind and a little disrespect for authority, you may find a person that becomes this type of hero by virtue of a single act. One such man was Larry Walters. Larry was an ordinary truck driver, but he had always dreamed of flying. On July 2, 1982, at the age of thirty-three, Larry decided to live his dream. He tied 42 helium filled weather balloons to a lawn chair, and took to the skies with a pellet gun (to shoot the balloons when he was ready to come down), a CB radio, and some cold beer.

Larry catapulted up to 16,000 feet and began to shiver because of the cold. He was somewhere over San Pedro, California, when the pilot of a passing jetliner noticed him and alerted authorities. Larry started shooting balloons, but accidentally dropped the pellet gun overboard.

Larry eventually returned to Earth. A federal aviation official said, "We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed," Mr. Savoy said. "If he had a pilot's license, we'd suspend that. But he doesn't." Ultimately, the F.A.A. fined Larry $1,500.00. Larry made the rounds on the TV networks and gained his fifteen minutes of fame. He killed himself at the age of forty-four.        

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