By SAMANTHA GILBERT
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — To most people, a hero is their favorite actor/actress or athlete.
A hero to me is not an athlete or famous person -- a hero is a person who has courage, someone who is tough, and someone who thinks of others before themselves.
But most of all a hero to me is someone who is willing to risk his or her life to protect others, even if the people he or she is protecting don't even recognize them.
A hero is someone who will do anything to make sure that everyone back home is safe and away from danger, even if it means not seeing his or her family for long periods of time.
Most people don't have someone like this in their life; those people don't realize what a hero really is.
I, on the other hand, am so fortunate, I have two people in my life who are very close to me who fit my description of a hero.
They are not superheroes or famous athletes, they can't shoot webs or fly, but they have the courage and willpower to give their lives and don't expect anything in return.
These two people are my uncle, Jeff Gilbert, who served our country in Desert Storm and the Iraq war, and a very good friend of mine, Tyler Wiklanski, who is currently serving in Afghanistan.
My uncle was in the U.S. Army for 22 years before retiring after his time in Iraq, and Tyler is in the U.S. Army and has been for two years.
They are the true heroes that everyone should look up to, but most people don't even recognize them.
I am truly fortunate to have such wonderful people like my Uncle Jeff and Tyler in my life. They show me that even if you feel like you are no one, you can make something of yourself, there is always something more that you can do to help out. And that you do not have to be a superhero to have superpowers.
These two extraordinary men are people just like you and me.
• SPC Jeffery Gilbert, of the 1071st, veteran of Desert Storm and the Iraq war, father of two boys, a husband, an uncle and a support system.
• Tyler Wiklanski, of the 10th Mountain Infantry Division 4th brigade, fighter in the Afghanistan war, a brother, a best friend, a son, and the kind of guy to make you smile even when you do not want to.
These two men are the real heroes of the world. They don't like to think of themselves as heroes but they are in my eyes, and they always will be.
Samantha Gilbert is a junior at Elk Rapids High School.