It Takes a Hero: Occupational Heroes

Blog Post 70 Photo Melinda Green

Photo courtesy of and Melinda Green.

It was a warm, late spring night in 2009 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A minivan traveled down a local road, its three occupants most likely heading home after an evening out. A car charged from the opposite direction, ran off the road, overcorrected, and plowed head on into the van. It ran off the road, and the engine caught fire. Police Officer Mark Jodoin struggled to put the flames out and get the victims out of the van before it was too late. Upon being interviewed after the incident, Jodoin didn’t consider himself a hero (WRAL contains the full story.) Rather, he viewed his saving three people (though one later died) from a burning vehicle as part of his job. Jodoin is what I call an occupational hero.

Occupational heroes are those people whose jobs put them in danger. Jobs like those in law enforcement (police officer, FBI agent, US Marshal, to name a few), firefighters, paramedics, and soldiers all fall into this category. They perform brave acts and many times are also known for their fine qualities.

What makes them a hero?

The easy answer is that it’s their occupation for the reasons I mentioned above. But dig down, and the reasons run deeper than that.   The people in occupational hero professions answer a true calling because most, if not all, of them are woefully underpaid for the danger in which they put themselves. Each day, they go out and put their lives on the line to protect and serve the rest of us.

Why do occupational heroes influence those around them?

These heroes can touch people in two different ways. First, they perform acts of bravery. At times, they may come across, thanks to the influence of the media, as a romantic hero of sorts. Think of soldiers going off to war. Second, on a much more personal level, they can be of influence when they rescue someone or directly impact their lives.

How do occupational heroes conduct themselves?

Most of the time, you won’t find these kinds of heroes craving the spotlight. Instead, they’ll hang back in the shadows. Even when publicity is thrust on them via a news article or an award presented, they’ll look for an out. It’s easy to see why. They’d say, “I was doing my job.” To them, being a hero is part of their work, even if it isn’t written into the job description.

What kinds of burdens do occupational heroes carry?

An occupational hero’s job can burden them. Think about it. A soldier goes off to war and experiences the very real and agonizing burden not only of protecting our country but witnessing friends dying on the battlefield. A police officer knows that she may be the only one between a criminal and someone dying. A firefighter knows that if he doesn’t act bravely and set his own fears aside, then the people trapped in the second story of a burning house may not survive. Overall, occupational heroes work day in and day out with the knowledge that when they kiss their husband or wife goodbye in the morning, they may not come home that night.

Occupational heroes don’t ask for anything in return for their work. They do it because it’s a calling. They do it because they know they make a difference. Just ask the survivors and their families from that awful crash six years ago. To them, Officer Jodoin will always be a hero for his courageous acts that June night in 2009.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    The Conversation

  1. Connie says:

    Jennifer. ..this speaks to my heart. Angie Lee…the recent heroine for saving the blind old poodle ..she is surely a saint. Come see me and I will share how you know her!

  2. Mark Jodoin says:

    Jennifer, I happened to stumble upon your writing by chance and wanted to say thank you for your kind words. Although it’s been 8 years I remember that evening as if it were yesterday. I pass by the location daily and each time pray for Mr. Coonfield and his family and the family of Ms. Royal.

    • Jennifer Haynie says:


      Thank you for for your comment. Sometimes, I wonder if my writing floats out on the ether or is actually read. Thank you again for your service, and may God bless you in this Christmas season and beyond.