Who are the country's most courageous people? In many people's minds, it's the heroes in their communities: firefighters, police officers and emergency response teams.
Firefighters and police officers were ranked among the country's most prestigious professions in a poll conducted by Harris Interactive. According to the survey, prestige is strongly associated with respect, public service and good work, and professions with high prestige are those that benefit society and the people they serve.
Yet prestige isn't necessarily what they face in a dangerous job in which their lives are at risk every day.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks brought to national attention the need for better emergency response equipment and technology. Toy drives, pancake breakfasts and other fundraising events are just some of the ways communities have come together since then to raise money to help their local heroes.
Many U.S. companies continue to support the cause as well. Wal-Mart stores, for example, give to these organizations on an ongoing basis. And, as a part of their annual nationwide emphasis on safety in October, each of the 3,700 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations provides a special grant to local law enforcement officers and firefighters through their "Safe Neighborhood Heroes" program. This year, the company will provide a total of $8 million in $1,000 grants from each of its stores to local fire, police and emergency response teams.