Those who know me here are aware I was a US Army Colonel. I recommended and approved soldiers to be awarded medals for military service & bravery (though some medals required higher authority than mine). So allow me that I have at least a basic understanding of the concept.

Let me tell you about another kind of bravery, that is not military. I met a gay man in Seattle, Washington, in 1995. I knew at first glance he was dying of AIDS, which he told me had.

He was already on Social Security disability. Yet he volunteered to work at Chicken Soup Brigade (CSB), which was a major provider of food & services to the Seattle AIDS community at that time.

He would deliver donated groceries to the AIDS shut-ins with his own car at his own expense, cleaned their homes, ran their errands for them, and took them to their medical appointments. Even though he himself was entitled to receive these very same services from CSB, dying & enfeebled as he was, yet he did this for others.

And on those days when he didn't even have the strength to drive his car all around town, or climb apartment stairs, he would sit at the CSB desk and answer their phones. He also wrote & edited articles about AIDS issues for a Seattle gay newspaper.

Shortly after I finally met him in person (he was my online gay mentor who brought me out) his old car broke down, and he started to withdraw from the community, unable to get around, so that he was becoming a shut-in himself.

I personally fixed that car (I was once an auto mechanic), so he could return to his former active life, And in turn he made me his pet project, to bring me out into the gay world. And through him I learned most of what I know about being gay, lessons I treasure and follow to this day.

Together we visited every corner of gay Seattle, and a better gay mentor never existed. All that I am today in the gay world is his doing.

Shortly after this he went onto the AIDS cocktail, new at the time, and he responded and got better. He is alive today, has his own business, and is partnered with a Microsoft executive in Seattle (that I helped him meet).

There are many definitions of "hero." Here are some of mine:

When you know you are dying, but put others before yourself, that is a hero. When you have no strength left for yourself, yet find it to help others, that is a hero.

When you look at death daily, in the faces of the doomed men all around you, and still have the courage to smile, help and encourage them, that is a hero. When you refuse to give up and quit, either for yourself or for others in a seemingly hopeless situation, that is a hero.

I've learned a lot of things since coming out gay, certainly more than I ever knew before. And among those things are that gay men & women are braver, stronger, and more courageous than they can begin to realize.

Trust me; bravery & toughness were my trade. And all of you here have such strengths as you cannot imagine, inner resources you hardly suspect, and resilience few of you know. If I were to design my perfect hero, I would make him gay.

And that is what I think is really is hero.