"Who Is a Hero?" by James W. Squires, from the Charlotte Medical Journal, April, 1917
Heroes are those who seek not the praise nor heed the jeers of fellow men.
When human life is about to be sacrificed in fire or flood, or smothered out in some deep mining shaft; without a thought of danger to himself; wealth or station, sex or creed of the other, or anything else; he hasn’t time to think, except of saving life; then he takes his life in his hand, as it were, and to the rescue leaps.
If success his efforts crown, we name him hero and his praise is sung in every land and echoed back form every hill—Hero. He is awarded iron crosses and golden crowns and medals of honorary distinction of every conceivable kind.
If his efforts fail and his own life he loses, they merely say, "Fool—the impossible—he might have known."
How much less a hero is the man who sits in the lonely quiet of his room—his laboratory—with test tube and culture tube, reagents and culture mediums galore; with microscope and X-ray; pouring in and pouring out; working up and working down, winding in and winding out; winding on and winding off in a never-ceasing effort to ascertain the source and nature of disease, and to breed, if possible, an antidote whereby may be saved a million human lives?
If by chance he loses his fingers through X-ray burns; his eyes from fuming gases, or becomes himself infected with deadly germs and his lease on life is early closed in his effort to prolong the lease of thousands more. His body returns to mother earth from which it came—"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust." His bones add strength to the woody fiber of giant oak; his blood paints the cheek of the choicest fruit—the apples that grow on the highest limb, as well as the leaf of the rose that grows on its thorny stem.
No brass band parades; no torchlight processions; no red fire is burnt for him; no costly marble—sculpture decked—is storied with his praise. The world says "He wasn’t a mixer. He wasn’t a business man. He wasn’t a financier. He died poor." The profession to which he belonged and for whose advancement he gave his life—do say, "He thought he was smart."
But his epitaph is written, written, not by the erring pen of man, on parchment to be hidden away and lost, but written by the ready had of an angel. Written in indelible letters of blood, written on the crest of a fleecy cloud, that man and the angels may read, "He Died for Me."