The Real American Idols Remembered

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Remember when we idolized our heroes? Now it seems we only idolize idols.

And, more and more of us don't really know the difference. I recently talked to some elementary school kids and asked them who their heroes were. The boys listed mostly athletes and movie characters; the girls look up to actresses and princesses. Not a single one listed a firefighter, police officer or member of the military. It's not surprising, but it is a bit disappointing.

This week, American Idol will attract about thirty million viewers, our American heroes special will attract far less. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, that's just the way it is.

I guess watching people compete for a record contract is more fun that watching people fight for our country. If you sing a popular song, you get mobbed; fight a war today, and you often get forgotten.

Ours is a country where the ability to save a baseball game is worth millions of dollars! The tenacity to save lives is worth thousands of dollars. Idols buy expensive toys. Heroes spend months away from their families. Yet they go, come back and go again, voluntarily.

And because they're proud to fight for us, we at FOX News are proud to tell you about them. Their stories are both horribly tragic and terribly important, so we crisscrossed the country to bring American heroes into American living rooms.

Click on each of these American heroes' names to see an exclusive web video on their courageous efforts to serve their country.

Marine scout sniper Sgt. Scott Montoya, a sixth degree black belt, used his martial arts skills to carry wounded Marines to safety in the battle for Baghdad. He saved lives in Iraq and now he protects lives in southern California, serving as a deputy sheriff in Orange County.

Master Sergeant Don Hollenbaugh fought in Iraq with men the same age as his son; because of his brave experience, those young men will someday have kids of their own.

Sergeant Tommy Rieman is a 22-year-old from Kentucky. He became an American Hero, and then an action hero, with his image forever molded in a G.I. Joe type figure and video game.

Tech. Sgt. Travis Crosby's unit came under attack, and he fought back bravely, earning a Silver Star for his conduct in Iraq.

• In 2004, Master Sgt. Roger Watts risked his life to save his men who were under attack.

Col. James Coffman was wounded and and under heavy fire, but he stayed in the fight until his men were safe.

Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein's team was surrounded by dozens of enemy fighters.

Sgt. R.J. Mitchell braved enemy fire to save the lives of trapped Marines.

Then there are the heroes who sacrificed their lives.

Sergeant Paul Smith never made it home from Iraq, but because of him, his men did go home. In a final letter to his parents, he said he would do whatever it takes to "protect my boys."

Now Paul Smith's wife is a single mom, who is both angry at her husband for giving his life, and so very proud that he did. Paul's 11-year-old son misses his dad every day and counts the days until he can follow in his father's footsteps.

Whether you are for or against the war you have the right and the freedom to speak out. Just remember someone somewhere is fighting to make sure you maintain those freedoms. I hope you'll join us this weekend for our special. V for Valor: American Heroes in Iraq.

It's time once again to idolize our heroes.

Tune in this Sunday, May 13, at 4 p.m. ET: "V" FOR VALOR: AMERICAN HEROES IN IRAQ

The heated debate over the war in Iraq has drowned out the stories of incredible heroism by Americans on the front lines. That's why Trace Gallagher traveled across America to interview some of the most heavily decorated heroes from Iraq. With rarely seen video, combat photos and computer graphics, FOX recounts their astounding feats of valor on the battlefield.

E-mail Trace

Trace Gallagher, a New York-based anchor, joined FOX News Channel when it launched in October 1996. Most recently, Gallagher provided on-site coverage to the turmoil in the Middle East from Kiryat Shmona, Israel. You can read his complete bio here.