Why Do We Have Heroes?  (Part 1)

By | December 4, 2019

[December 4, 2019]  As young boys in the 1950s, we listened intently to returning Korean War veterans to get some idea of what war was like.  We asked stupid questions of these veterans.  Who were the best fighters?  Did you kill any Communists?  Were you a hero?  There was something that drove us to understand what it took to be heroic and hear stories of heroism.

This topic is written in two parts.  The first article answers the question “What is a hero?” while the second article answers “Why do we have heroes?”  Without the first question, the second cannot be effectively answered.  A previous article I wrote on the subject, titled “What is a hero?” gained some popularity on several leadership websites.  I find it necessary, however, to add more on the topic.

“A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.” – Christopher Reeve, American actor

Heroes are people who risk everything, including their lives, for the well-being of others.  From the time we first walked the Earth, stories about the hero have flourished.  These stories are a part of a meta-story (repeated because it’s draws us to it) about the best human traits; courage, strength, and honor.  These are ideals of human nature, and nothing can change our desire to embrace those traits.

The set of stories we heard from the Korean War veterans were about battles in the hills just north of the 38th Parallel in North Korea.1  We heard about the soldier who fought until his ammunition ran out, then used up his hand grenades, and then his bayonet and entrenching tool to fight off the “communist hordes.”  We also heard about the Marine machine-gunner who kept fighting in his position until overrun and killed.

As boys, we were in awe.  How could we imagine what happened in that war?  We couldn’t, but there was some force inside each of us that kept pushing us forward to hear more and more.  Every chance we got, my friend Wilson and I would ask about the war and listen as if our very lives depended upon the outcome.

We were interested because we wanted to know about war heroes.  We wanted to know that ordinary men could do extraordinary things.  How could a man, barely older than us and who came from a small town in Louisiana, fight with such ferocity and bravery in the face of certain death?  We had to have our questions answered.


  1. Later, long after I joined the U.S. Army, I discovered that the battles our local veterans were telling stories were part of the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge which took place between mid-September and October 1951.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Why Do We Have Heroes?  (Part 1)

  1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Excellent article. I read Part 2 first but it didn’t matter. Thanks General Satterfield. Maybe you could do a mini-series on “Why do we need FEAR.” I know that you have written on the subject but to put it into the perspective of a “Need” will be a real twist.

  2. Kenny Foster

    Message to all the snowflake university students out there (beware you might get spiked reading this comment) ….. warfare is the normal human condition. The question you must answer is WHY has there been so much sustained peace? Reality might interfere with your puny mind but strength, honor, and integrity is paramount in allowing humans to live peacefully.

    1. The Kid 1945

      Pow! Thanks Kenny. Our education system has failed us. That is particularly true of “advanced” education. Formal education in the US and Western nations has become a racket. It should be scrapped an we should start all over. Better that way than trying to reform it.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Spot-on comment, Kenny. This is why I like this leadership blog so much. You get a great education listening to what others say. It is a chance to bounce ideas around and see how much they resonate or not. ?

  3. Bryan Lee

    I look forward to the next article that really answers the question why do we have heroes.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    As a teacher of High School students, I spend one day on the Korean War. Sadly, I never had the chance to speak directly with Korean War veterans while growing up but I did reach out to the local VFW and got a few vets to come into the classroom to talk about their combat experiences in that war. Great stuff. Students were captivated.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      Keep up the great work informing out young about the realities of the world and not giving them the PC ideology of radical leftism that so often infects our teachers today.

  5. ZB22

    Hi everyone. I’ve been overseas for a couple of weeks and now I’m back and trying to catch up on my Leadership Maker blog. Good discussion here. I like the idea that there is some ‘force’ (my term for it) that attracts us to heroes. What that is, in my opinion, is hard wired into our brains from the tens of thousands of years of human evolution.

    1. Mark Evans

      Welcome back ZB. Look at Clearing the Spindle from a couple of days ago to see where Gen. Satterfield’s mind is going.

  6. Max Foster

    You’ve tapped into something here that is hard to put my finger on (figuratively). Something draws us to heroes! Just like something draws us to leaders. What is it about our makeup that pulls us toward them. It’s got to be more than “seeing” an ideal person (most heroes are flawed). That is the question of the ages. We will not answer it here but discussing it gives us all a better understanding of others.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      I think that the Professor Jordan Peterson that Gen. Satterfield referenced here in previous blog articles helps articulate some of this. Humans are complex and often unpredictable. List to Peterson on YouTube and read his books. These help.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Yes! Dr. Peterson discusses Carl Young often. I listen to the lectures and speeches. Wonderful ideas being paraded before us.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Yes, hopefully it comes out tomorrow. General Satterfield has given us a number of short-series articles. The anticipation!

    2. JT Patterson

      Me too and so are my friends at work. Several of us discuss these issues during lunch almost everyday. It makes for an interesting and informative talk.

  7. Gil Johnson

    You were fortunate as a child to talk with Korean War veterans. They have stories to tell about the communists that are not dissimilar to those from the Vietnam War. Communism as an ideology doesn’t care about the person at all. That’s why they are not good at warfare, they just throw bodies at their enemies.

  8. Darryl Sitterly

    Thank you, Gen. Satterfield. This mini-series is turning out to be something that everyone should take the time to read and contemplate.

      1. Harry Donner

        I tried reading Carl Young’s writings but there is simply too much and too complex. Better to read what modern folks wrote about his ideas. Easier to take in.

      2. Scotty Bush

        Good suggestion. Carl Young is famous because he was a great thinker. Why can’t we all be great thinkers?

    1. Janna Faulkner

      And thank you, Darryl. Good to see you back on this leadership blog. This is how I learn a lot from just spending a few minutes reading. I also love the comments section.


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