Okay, not that kind of hero, the kind in the spandex tights who utters one liners while blissfully ignoring the hail of bullets rebounding from his steely fore-thrust chest.
No, I'm talking about the ordinary knucklehead I met in high school who decided the smartest move he could make was to train for combat journalism and head into our country's most notorious warzone. The kind who straps on a bunch of heavy gear in a dusty desert and works to shape his country's understanding of what's happening there.
Not only am I proud of this guy with whom I've hiked, played D&D, took road trips to California, and watched Alien vs. Predator, I value his perspective on the reality of Iraq. He is neither an optimist ("everything we do here is working if only the media would tell the truth!") nor a pessimist ("why are we here? Nothing we do matters, I just want to go home.") but simply a realist. As a journalist, he has a broader view of what's going on over there, but carrying a rifle and riding around in humvees and dodging rocket-propelled grenades tends to ground your perspective a bit more on what's really going on.
Eric, you're serving your country proudly and there are many here who admire what you and your fellow soldiers are accomplishing. Serve out the remainder of your tour with determination and distinction, and then get back to the States. You've been a long time gone.