What is the true meaning of hero?
I have a different definition. A hero is someone who willingly places his life in jeopardy to aid another in grave danger. I have known a few men like that, served with them in infantry combat. They are a rare breed.
At the top of the short list of heroes I have known is the name of Eddie Wolfe. Those who have read the book Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War know of a few times when he risked his life while others failed to act. As fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday is the morning when some of us had moved into the wrong field in the dark of night and then at first light were subjected to a horrific artillery barrage directed by Germans who could see us. Eddie, who was in the adjoining field safely behind a thick dirt hedgerow repeatedly called, "Stodgy, Stodgy, are you guys OK?" I assured him we were until finally the concussion from shells hitting close by left me unable to move or even speak. I could see, though, and in the midst of the shelling, when it was difficult to distinguish anything because of the brilliant bursts of silver laced with gold and red, I saw Eddie crawling toward me. He gripped me under the arms and, crawling backwards while pulling me and my equipment weighing well over 200 pounds, dragged me to safety.
That was just one of the times Eddie left a safe place to help someone when the odds were stacked against his surviving. He never got a medal, never even a word of thanks because that just wasn't something men did.
Eddie, a platoon sergeant, never slept while one of his men was out on patrol or doing some other extremely dangerous job. A few other sergeants called him "Mother Wolfe" and meant it as a compliment. But without meaning to, Eddie made most compliments meaningless to me on a night when I had to lead an ammunition train of rear-echelon men through rugged country while a German patrol was loose and roaming the area. At four in the morning when the job was finished he put an arm over my shoulder and said, "You did a good job tonight, Stodgy." Coming from him, to an 18-year-old soldier that was the supreme compliment that could never be equaled.
The fact that he was a Jew didn't keep Eddie from sending me Christmas cards. He was too big a man to let something like religion keep him from doing things like that, things he felt like doing.
Time catches up with everyone, though. Eddie Wolfe would have been ninety or close to it when he died this week. His kind seldom come along. The world isn't quite as good a place without him.