What is a hero? By the literal meaning of the word,  a hero is the protector or defender; by the ancient Greek definition it is the one who lives and dies in the pursuit of honor. Today we apply the word way too often and undeservedly, diluting its meaning. But we do indeed have different kinds of heroism; the warrior that kills many enemies and thus protects his squad and achieves his objective, the man who runs under fire to help a wounded comrade, the firefighter that enters that burning building to help people in danger, the police officer that run towards the sound of trouble, the man or woman that stands up for the rights of others at the risk of their own safety. All of these individuals are worthy of our praise and honor. But what we saw in the case of Colonel Beltrame was rare.

Colonel Beltrame was born in Etampes, a small community just outside Paris. He graduated from both École militaire interarmes and École des officiers de la gendarmerie nationale first of his class. He was selected for GIGN, the Gendarmerie world famous counter terrorism unit, and he saw action in Iraq.

He was born in a family without much interest in religion, but in his early thirties he became a Catholic and set his sights on becoming a family man. During a pilgrimage, he asked for a wife that would be by his side for life. After a while, he met and fell in love with Marriele, a woman with the same strong faith as him. He was a freemason with interest in the traditions and history of France. He wanted a catholic wedding to feel complete. France, God, the Gendarmerie and his family were the pillars of Colonel Beltrame’s life.

On 24/3/2018, an ISIS inspired dickwad shot a couple in Carcassonne area, killing the man and injuring the woman, taking their car. Driving away,  he stumbled upon a group of policeman on their daily PT run and opened fire injuring one of them in the stomach. He reached the town of Trèbes and entered the town’s supermarket. After he screamed something in Arabic, he opened fire against the security guard, a customer and an employee of the supermarket, killing the latter. .With the terrorist holed up in the supermarket, it was now a hostage situation.

The terrorist was holding a female employee of the supermarket, a mother of two children, hostage, when colonel Beltrame convinced him to take her place. He left his weapons and walked towards the entrance, he had his cellphone in his hand and he left it on so that the team outside could hear what was happening. The terrorist shot the Colonel four times as he was approaching and slit his throat. The team outside heard it and knew it was time to move. They entered the supermarket and killed the terrorist, giving and end to the whole incident. Colonel Beltrame died from his wounds early the next day.

And here comes the rareness of Colonel Beltrame’s valor. In all the other cases I mentioned before, there is a possibility of success: those people risk their life knowingly, but with the hope of coming out on top. Colonel Beltrame, on the other hand, practically exchanged his life for his fellow man. He surely must have known that an officer of Gendarmerie presents the perfect target for a terrorist, but he walked towards him with unwavering devotion to his duty.

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In a time of idiotic TV stars, meaningless entertainment and boundlessly egoistic individuals, Colonel Beltrame, with his act of self-sacrifice that defies logic and the sense of self-preservation, became a shining beacon of virtue, commitment to duty, and the service of others.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Featured Image Courtesy of Mission numérique de la Gendarmerie nationale [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons