Didn't read most of the thread, but I'll put in my peice.
War Hero doesn't necessarily mean putting a hurt on the enemy to me. I think of guys who put their lives on the line for their wing man, the guy next to them in battle. Many of the recent recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor did not receive it for a body count. They were granted that honor for giving their lives for their buddies in a spectacular way.
John McCain is a genuine War Hero. I don't like him much as a politician, but any man who spends the amount of time he did getting tortured in a hell hole of a prison, and following the US Military Code of Conduct, is a hero. I got a very small, easy taste of what that experience is like at SERE training. It wasn't pleasant. They use McCain and many other guests from the Hanoi Hilton as examples to live up to throughout the training. I've met some of those men. There is a training squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, where I was stationed for a year, which re-trained the re-patriated POW's who still wanted to fly for the Air Force, and every year since their return, the base hosts a reunion for those men. A handful of them speak about their experiences, and it is amazing to hear. Those men are heroes, but will never admit it. Which brings me to my next point.
The last thing I always think of in a hero is a person who doesn't believe he did anything extra. He is humble. He will tell you he was just doing his duty, no more. I resent people [cough cough] John Kerry[cough cough] who flaunt their medals and awards like a resume. To those men, "above and beyond" is a normal operating procedure. In this vein, I think of my Grandfather, whom even I don't call a hero, but he was humble about his achievements. He received two Purple Hearts in WWII, and would be pissed if he knew he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. We believed he had earned a place there, but he would've disagreed. The hero will never believe he's a hero.