Book ‘The Hero Code’ by William H. McRaven

PDF Excerpt 'The Hero Code' by William H. McRaven #WilliamHMcRaven.
Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived
THE HERO CODE is Admiral McRaven's ringing tribute to the real, everyday heroes he's met over the years, from battlefields to hospitals to college campuses, who are doing their part to save the world. When Bill McRaven was a young boy growing up in Texas, he dreamed of being a superhero. He longed to put on a cape and use his superpowers to save the earth from destruction. But as he grew older and traveled the world, he found real heroes everywhere he went -- and none of them had superpowers. None of them wore capes or cowls. But they all possessed qualities that gave them the power to help others, to make a difference, to save the world: courage, both physical and moral...
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 13, 2021)  Pages: 176 pages  ISBN-10: 1538719967  ISBN-13: 978-1538719961  ASIN: B09JPFTPH9

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About the Author: Admiral William H. McRaven is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed and the New York Times bestsellers Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations and The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. After retiring from the Navy, he served as the Chancellor of the University of Texas System from 2015 to 2018. He now lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Georgeann.

Book excerpt

I dedicate this book to all the remarkable men and women who battled and continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic—the scientists, the health care professionals, those who provide and deliver our goods and services, those who teach our children, and those who protect our streets. If ever there were people worthy of the title Hero, it is you. Thank you for all you have done for the nation and the world!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

—ANNE FRANK

INTRODUCTION

In 1960, when I was five years old, my father, an Air Force officer, was stationed in Fontainebleau, France. He was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). We lived in an old three-story home in a remote area called Bella Woods. With few modern amenities in the house and no television, I grew up devouring American comic books: Batman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Hulk, Thor, and Aquaman. But there was one hero who really captured my imagination. He was all-American. His costume was red, white, and blue. He hailed from a small town in Kansas and he had amazing powers. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he was always rescuing women, children, and men in distress. He was “the champion of the helpless and oppressed.” During the war, my hero fought the Nazis, the Fascists, the Imperial warlords, and the fifth columnists. Partnering with American soldiers and sailors, he “ventured forth in a gigantic battle for the future of Democracy,” and he won. He was Action Comics Man of Steel, Superman!

I so wanted to be like Superman. There was not a towel in the house that at one point wasn’t a cape. I would jump from chairs, couches, tables, anything to emulate my hero. Someday when the world was in trouble again, I knew that Superman would come to the rescue. Maybe he and I could team up. Batman had Robin; why couldn’t Super-man have a sidekick?

In 1963, my father received orders back to the States. My family and I traveled to Calais, France, boarded the ocean liner SS United States, and after a four-day trip pulled portside in New York City. No sooner had we checked in to the hotel than I turned on the television. There in amazing black and white was my hero, leaping from building to building, bullets bouncing off him, saving Lois Lane—and all this was happening in the city of Metropolis. Metropolis, New York City. I was here in Metropolis. If I was here, then maybe, just maybe, Superman was here as well.

Over the course of the next few days, my father and I explored the city. We went everywhere—the Empire State Building, the World’s Fair, Times Square. But as we ventured through the canyons of skyscrapers I was constantly looking upward, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Man of Steel. My father would stop occasionally and ask me if everything was all right. Sure, sure, everything’s fine. I mean, I was eight years old, way too old to really believe in Superman. In my mind, I knew he was just a comic book character, but in my heart, oh in my heart, I truly hoped that he was real. Because, if Superman was real, then he could solve all of the world’s problems. Nothing was too difficult for Superman. The Nazis couldn’t stop him. Aliens couldn’t hurt him. No criminal was too smart to outwit my hero.

Finally, my father stopped me and asked, “Bill, what’s wrong?” I was embarrassed to tell him, but after some fatherly prodding, I finally said, “Well, New York City is Metropolis and I…” I hesitated. “I was hoping to see Superman.” Dad smiled, put his arm around me, pointed to a New York police officer, and said, “Son, that’s the man that protects New York City.”

If you can have an epiphany at eight years old, well then, this was mine. If Superman wasn’t real, then who was going to save the world? If Superman or Batman or Spider-Man weren’t coming, then how would we stop the criminals, the Nazis, the Soviets, the aliens from outer space, and all the violence and destruction? The answer was clear. It was up to us.

Over time I became fixated on real-world heroes: astronauts striving to reach the moon, doc-tors creating vaccines to save millions: Civic leaders marching for the rights of the underrepresented. Political leaders forming new governments where the people had a voice. Decorated soldiers returning from Korea and then Vietnam. Sports figures who transcended the color barrier. Adventurers who were climbing higher, diving deeper, sailing farther, and exploring the unknown. Visionaries who were trying to clean the air, save the oceans, and protect the fragile ecosystems. I marveled at each of these remarkable men and women, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I was nothing like them. They were smarter, stronger, braver. They had all the attributes I lacked. They had superpowers that I just didn’t possess. That’s why they were heroes, and that’s why they were the only people who could save the world.

But I was wrong.

In 1977, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and joined the Navy SEALs. Over the course of the next thirty-seven years, I traveled the world. I saw the worst of humanity: war and destruction, disease and poverty, cruelty and indifference. The world was full of problems, seemingly intractable, unsolvable, impossible problems! But also in those thirty-seven years I saw the very best of mankind. Men and women who sought peace, who rebuilt nations, who cured disease and lifted the poor from poverty. Men and women whose compassion was so deep that it made the cruelty and indifference of others pale in comparison; men and women who were from all walks of life, from every socioeconomic background, from every race, every creed, and every gender and orientation.

I came to realize that there is a hero in all of us. There is an innate code that has been there since the birth of mankind. It is written in our DNA. It is what drove the great expansion of humanity out of Africa. It summoned the explorers to cross the deserts and the seas. It helped create the great faiths. It emboldened the early scientists and philosophers. It nurtured the ill and infirm. It spoke truth to the masses. It brought order to chaos and hope to the desperate. This code is not a cipher, or a cryptograph, or a puzzle to be solved. It is a moral code, an internal code of conduct that drives the human race to explore, to nurture, to comfort, to inspire, and to laugh so that societies can flourish.

This book is about heroes and the virtues they possess. You may wonder whether you can ever be as courageous or as compassionate or as humble as the men and women in these stories. Trust me, you caw! For some, living the Hero Code comes more naturally. But for most of us, we must learn how to bring forth these virtues. We need to see them in the lives of others and try to mirror them in ourselves. We need to build those qualities through small steps that eventually become the foundation of our character.

I hope that you will find the stories in this book and these lessons of character to be of value as you build your own life, worthy of the respect of others. The hard truth is that Superman is not coming to save the day. Each of us will have to do our part. Each of us will have to find the hero inside and bring it forth. So, grab a towel, hop on a chair, and let’s take that leap!

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all the rest.”

— WINSTON CHURCHILL