Donald Trump is wasting no time making more controversial statements. This time he is in a battle with Senator John McCain surrounding the term 'war hero'. Many think that McCain is a war hero, and there is no doubt of his credentials - he was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW and suffered injuries that have affected him his whole life. Trump has said that he doesn't believe McCain is a hero, on the basis that McCain got captured and that shouldn't be grounds for being lauded as a hero. "I like people that weren't captured." says Trump.
Trump is a buffoon but the raging debate that this has created brings up an interesting point. What are the grounds for being a hero anyway? There is a lot of sentiment in the GOP that anyone who serves in the military is a hero, or perhaps that anyone who actively serves in a combat role is a hero. This is a huge problem for Trump who is a big military booster and you don't get the votes of soldiers and the people close to them by telling them they are losing their hero status! However much that may be the Republican norm though, I definitely don't get behind the idea that we should venerate anyone who fights, as it depends very much on who they fought and why. Glorifying all parts of the military machine is not a standard I can get behind because war should be seen as a grim necessity, not a factory for producing heroes.
It is possible to be heroic when in a war, but being in a war does not make a person a hero.
So a hero isn't just someone who fights. Someone who fights for the right goals and reasons? Maybe. Or is it to do with the suffering they endure? A member of the Navy who steers a ship near to a war zone and then steers it home again seems more like a normal worker than a hero, especially compared to someone who actually has to hear bullets zipping past their head, deal with injuries, watching comrades die in front of them, and potentially cope with capture and torture as McCain did.
The first thing Google gives me when I type in 'hero' is this: "A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities."
You can't really make the claim that being captured or injured is a noble quality or an achievement. However, there is no question that McCain in particular showed tremendous courage during his incarceration, so by that standard the term war hero seems appropriate.
Whether or not Trump and McCain agree on McCain's claim to the war hero title is itself immaterial. The deeper concern, and the one which the people covering the story will almost universally ignore, is why we are so eager as a society to laud people for being part of war without any concern as to the actions they took during that war.