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Humble hero Daniel Hernandez honored in new book

For a very large hunk of your life, your heroes came in a comic book.

Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman arrived in living color between the pages of something you got at the grocery store. You were thrilled by their bravery. You loved to watch their crime-fighting skills. You wanted to be brave like them.

These days, though, you know it takes more than a cool costume to be a hero. So does Daniel Hernandez, but in his new book “They Call Me a Hero” (with Susan Goldman Rubin), he says there’s nothing heroic about his actions.

The event on Jan. 8, 2011, was supposed to be fun and informative.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, who loved interacting with her constituents, had planned a meet-and-greet that Saturday afternoon in Tucson. Twenty-year-old Daniel Hernandez, an intern with Gifford’s office, was there to help register attendees and to do light crowd control.

And everything was going well until he heard explosions and one word: “Gun!”

Almost automatically, Hernandez headed for the stage, with Gifford first on his mind. With barely a pause, he pressed his hand against her wound to slow the bleeding, an action that may have saved her life. He comforted her, and rode with her in the ambulance to the hospital.

Years before, as a child, Hernandez had wanted to be a doctor. He was a good student in school and was teased for his bookishness and for being gay. Undaunted, he stayed true to himself and sought classes and training for a future medical career.

He blames his “obsession” with politics on Hillary Clinton. He became fascinated by her run for the White House and volunteered to work for her campaign, a love that extended to his college years, the friends he sought and, later, to a desire to serve others in a political career that also allowed him to do motivational speaking.

On that January day in 2011, though, Hernandez was just an intern. His future, he hoped, would be spent serving others through volunteering.

But he was destined to become a hero first.

There are a lot of bumps in “They Call Me a Hero,” starting with the subtitle (“A Memoir of My Youth”).

Hernandez and Goldman Rubin don’t include a whole lot about Hernandez’s youth; instead, the vast majority of this memoir is about that one day in Tucson, the whirlwind of media attention afterward, and Hernandez’s subsequent political activities.

There’s also an awful lot of back-patting here.

To the good, however, this book may loudly urge teens to give of themselves to better their worlds. With an overwhelming record of achievements, Hernandez is a tornado of service to others, and he makes volunteerism seem fun, almost like a community in itself. That may spur young readers to mobilize.

Indeed, the intended audience for this book is 12- to 18-year-olds but there’s certainly no reason adults can’t read it. If you can look beyond the bumps and boasting in “They Call Me a Hero,” you may find a hunk of inspiration, too. 

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children and teens weekly.

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