Living As a Hero – a Life With Honor

by John Joyce

All my life I’ve been fascinated with heroes.

It all started with Superman and the Saturday morning cartoons.  Eventually I discovered the legendary exploits of some of Ancient Greece’s greatest heroes like Achilles and Hercules.  As I grew older my heroes became the great Americans who had fought and died to preserve the values they believed in; the civic leaders who risked everything to try and bring justice to society.  These heroes didn’t have magical powers, they weren’t invincible; but that made them all the more compelling.  These were mortal men, often from modest backgrounds, but nonetheless they held themselves to the same code of honor that I had come to admire among the mythical heroes of my youth.  It occurred to me that though I would never be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I could emulate these real-life heroes and perhaps learn to comport myself with the honor and dignity that seemed to define a hero.

My first serious effort in that regard was to join the United States Marine Corps.  The core-values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment that the Marine Corps espouses were captivating to my young mind.  In fact, many of the heroes I had revered in my youth had been Marines themselves.  From the moment I first walked into my recruiter’s office I knew I was willing to do whatever it might take to earn the title “U.S. Marine.”

Boot Camp was the first time I’d ever met a real-life hero in person and the experience changed me forever.  Both of my drill instructors had served in the Gulf War and both of them were heroes.  They were both very tough men, but they never spoke of being tough.  Instead, when they had the opportunity to speak freely with us, they shared about their love of our country and our Corps.  They shared about the sacrifices they had been required to make by dedicating their entire life to the Marine Corps and how they had never had a moment of regret.  They shared about how difficult it is to “always do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”  They shared about how they had failed, but then picked themselves up again, and reasserted their commitment to truth and honor.

While I was in the Marine Corps I would get the chance to meet many more heroes.

I was lucky enough to build close personal relationships with some of the bravest men in our country.  I will never forget the example that was set by those men.  I will never forget writing to the mother of Lance Corporal James T. Byrd, a Marine who had been under my command and who died in Iraq, and telling her how proud I was to have had a real American hero as a friend and teammate.  I will never forget the responsibility I have to my fallen comrades; I must live up to the standards they have set.

My time in the Marine Corps was definitely time well spent.  It helped me shape an ideal for the type of life I’d like to lead, but it’s time for the next step.  Not all of my heroes have been combat soldiers.  Several of the men I admire were able to make the world a better place through the law.  Lawyers like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln prove that men of honor are found in the courtroom as well as on the battlefield.  While I was in college I sought out mentors who had experience in the legal profession.  I learned that there were esteemed traditions of honor and integrity in our nation’s legal system.  I came to think of American lawyers as members of a trusted brotherhood that dates back to the founding of our country.  I became eager to prove myself worthy of membership in that elite cadre.  Some of the most important battles our society engages in are legal battles.  Questions of justice, equality, and liberty are typically decided in court these days; I want to be part of that fight.  I’m hoping that becoming a lawyer will allow me to continue to serve my country, and maybe learn a little more about what it takes to be a hero.

I’m determined to live a life of honor.

I’m determined to become the kind of man that the fallen-heroes I’ve known would want me to be.  I know it won’t be easy, but I’m determined to give it my best shot.  Our world offers countless temptations to go astray.  We all face situations in which doing the right thing brings unpleasant consequences.  When faced with this dilemma we can follow the easier, softer path or we can do what we know is right.  The choice we make will define our character.  I believe that if we choose the way of honor and maintain our commitment to sound ideals we can all be heroes.

About the author: John Joyce is a former Marine turned law student.  He has overcome addiction, lived through divorce, and learned a lot along the way.  He hopes sharing his experience can benefit others.  John believes in an abundant Power of the universe that can solve all our problems.  John’s primary focus is on building a connection with that Power.”  You can find him at or

Editor’s note: John sent me an email asking to write for the site. I was so impressed by his personal statement that I actually picked up the phone and called him and asked if I could use that as his first piece. It’s what you just read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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