What makes an individual a hero? If you were to ask a group of people, each person would probably give you a different answer. Some might think of their favorite athlete while others may consider a political figure who had to fight years of adversity.
There are those who view the word “hero” as someone who does the right thing no matter what. They selflessly put their lives on the line.
Some heroes fight for the rights of children. Others offer free medical services to those who can’t afford it.
Many heroes have one thing in common: they did what they did, not for recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. Here are 25 Real Stories of Everyday Heroes.
Witold Pilecki was a 39-year-old veteran of the Polish-Soviet War. He had heard of the mass murders happening at Auschwitz and decided to do something.
Pilecki volunteered to be imprisoned at the camp so he could escape and inform the allies. Although he did escape eventually, he was executed by Stalin for foreign imperialism.
Roy Madril Jr and Chris Martinez
Heroes come in all ages. When Roy Madril Jr and Chris Martinez were getting gas, they heard a scream for help from a young mother. Her car had been stolen with her children still inside.
The two teens chased the car thief down and the children were saved.
Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov
Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov were three men who bravely swam through the radioactive waters of Chernobyl in order to prevent a nuclear meltdown.
The three men, sometimes called the Suicide Squad, kept the power plant from melting down by opening sluice gates beneath the power plant and potentially saving millions of lives. These three heroes survived the harrowing experience.
If you’re ever driving along a busy street, you may see a homeless person selling a little newspaper called The Voice. The Voice was invented by Rajinder Johar, a man who became a quadriplegic after a failed home robbery.
Johar was shot in the spine and told he would never walk again. He used his time to create the newspaper, which brings awareness about people who struggle with disabilities.
James Persyn III
You don’t have to chase a criminal or run into a burning building in order to be a hero. Sometimes answering a cry for help is enough. When 14-year-old James Persyn III was home alone with his siblings, he heard a loud bang on the door and a plea for help.
The cries were from a female student at Central Michigan University. She had been sexually assaulted and managed to escape. Persyn let the woman in. Her attacker found out where she was and lit the house on fire. Luckily, the boy’s father arrived home in time to put out the fire.
Dr. Georges Bwelle
Dr. Bwelle is a medical doctor who volunteers his medical services to provide care to those in rural areas of Cameroon.
After watching his father become ill, and realizing not enough doctors were available, Bwelle realized he had to do something. Bwelle along with other volunteers have helped over 30,000 people receive health care.
Frank Serpico is a retired NYPD police officer. He is known for being the first police officer to report police corruption in New York City.
He is responsible for helping create The Knapp Commission in 1970, which battles corruption in the police force. He was portrayed by Al Pacino in the film Serpico.
Many times, being a hero can mean not doing anything. Stanislav Petrov was a duty officer at Serpukhov-15 (a secret command center responsible for watching over Soviet satellites in the U.S.).
One night, a missile alarm went off, signaling that the U.S. had fired. However, Petrov knew that the alarms were in the early stages and told his commanders he believed that alarm to be inaccurate. He turned out to be right and successfully diverted nuclear catastrophe.
Paul Rusesabagina is a humanitarian from Rwanda. During a 100-day war between the Hutu and the Tutsi, Rusesabagina hid and protected over 1,000 refugees in the Hôtel des Mille Collines.
Rusesabagina was an assistant manager of the hotel at the time. Don Cheadle portrayed Rusesabagina in the movie Hotel Rwanda.
James Harrison is responsible for saving over two million babies. Well, technically, his blood is responsible.
Harrison has a very rare blood type able to produce antibodies that can cure babies who are born with rare rhesus disease.
Yukio Shige is a retired Japanese police officer. He now dedicates his time to prevent people from jumping off the cliffs of Toginbo.
He has saved many lives simply by offering compassion and a listening ear.
Lassana Bathily is a Muslim born Malian. He worked at a Kosher supermarket in Paris.
One day, a gunman named Amedy Coulibaly entered the market and began killing customers who were Jewish. Bathily gathered the survivors he could find and hid them in the freezer until help arrived.
Robert Cooke was a 22-year-old skydiving instructor who saved the life of a young woman during a skydiving lesson.
The plane they were flying in had engine failure and began to free fall. Cooke calmly gave the woman instructions and acted as a human shield, taking the brunt of the force during impact.
Miraculously, the woman survived in spite of suffering injuries. Cooke and several others did not survive the crash.
Kyle Carpenter is a retired United States Marine veteran. He selflessly jumped on top of a live grenade and saved his friend’s life.
Carpenter lost the majority of his teeth, his right eye, and suffered many broken bones. Thankfully, he is still alive and is the youngest living person to receive the Medal of Honor.
Candy Lightener is the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
She founded the organization after her young daughter was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender. According to their reports, they have saved over 300,000 lives.
Nearly everyone knows who Rosa Parks was. She was an African American woman who refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man. Her actions got her arrested, but her bravery inspired many.
One thing it inspired was the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest against segregated seating during which African-Americans refused to ride the bus. The protest lasted over a year.
Rosa Parks is often considered the mother of the civil rights movement.
Steve Buscemi may not be your average everyday hero. He is worth mentioning, though. Before he was a famous actor, Buscemi was an NYC firefighter.
After the terrorist attack on 9/11, Buscemi volunteered with his old unit to search for survivors.
Danielle Gletow is a child rights activist and a foster mom. She is also the founder of “One Simple Wish,” a website that allows people to grant wishes for kids in the foster care system.
These wishes might include a Christmas tree, games, or toys for kids who have very little.
Richard Nares is the founder of the Emilio Nares Foundation. The foundation was named after his son, who died of leukemia.
Nares helps young patients get to their chemo appointments by offering free transportation.
Dale Beatty was an Army veteran who co-founded “Purple Hearts Home.”
Beatty helped thousands of veterans to find adequate housing and healthcare when they returned home from the war. Beatty passed away at 39 years of age, but in spite of his short lifespan, he made a lasting difference.
Marc Patterson saved the life of a young man who was being attacked by a cougar. Patterson saw that the boy was going to be killed, so he sprang into action without a moment’s thought.
At first, he was unable to force the animal to let go of the boy but he refused to give up. He ended up scaring the animal off, thus saving the young boy’s life.
Eli Cohen was a spy for Israel during the Syrian War. His brave efforts helped the Israeli forces triumph during war efforts in the 1960s.
Cohen was so effective as a spy that he managed to get close to high-ranking officials. Sadly, he was discovered in 1965 and executed in Syria on national television.
Norman Borlaug was an agronomist who helped launch what is often called “The Green Revolution.”
The Green Revolution has helped increase agricultural production across the world. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his lasting contributions to the world’s food supplies.
Henrietta Lacks is indirectly responsible for creating the polio vaccine. Lacks had originally gone to John Hopkins for a lump near her cervix. After a biopsy, she discovered that she had cervical cancer.
The cancer cells were multiplying at an alarming rate and, sadly, Lacks died before she could get treatment.
After her death, however, the doctors sent her blood to many professionals including Jonas Salk. Using Lacks’ blood, Salk created the polio vaccine, which has saved many lives.
Peter Tabichi is a teacher from Kenya. Most of his students live in extreme poverty and/or come from single-family households.
Not wanting them to fail or quit school because of these stresses, he donates 80% of his salary to help these students. This way, they have less to worry about and can focus on their school work.
He was recently recognized as the world’s best teacher and given 1,000,000 dollars. (Our guess is that he put much of it straight back into helping others.)