THE word ‘hero’ is used far too casually in the modern media. It is applied with slapdash regularity to sportsmen and celebrities of limited achievement, with the consequence that its value is undermined.

However, we make no apology for describing helicopter pilot Mike Anderson as a hero in today’s edition of The Northern Echo because that is precisely what he is.

Flight Lieutenant Anderson is the subject of our front page picture after he received a Distinguished Flying Cross from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

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Flt Lt Anderson, from Belmont, near Durham City, has served in Afghanistan seven times and risked his life to rescue five wounded Afghan children during a Taliban ambush.

The horror of the conflict in Afghanistan is underlined by the fact that the children had been deliberately wounded to lure Allied forces into the attack. But Flt Lt Anderson braved fierce machine gun and mortar fire to evacuate the youngsters in his Chinook helicopter.

That is real heroism – and that is why yesterday’s royal honour is so richly deserved.