The word “hero” is grossly overused today. If you pick up a stray cat and adopt it, you’re called a hero. If you feed the homeless, yep, you’re a hero. If you survived cancer, you can bet you’ll be hailed a hero. And if you care for someone with cancer — man, you’re headed for superhero status.

But, honestly, I don’t think those people are heroes. Good people? Sure. Survivors? Absolutely. Inspirational? Certainly.

Heroes, though? Nah.

That four-letter word should be reserved for those who truly put it on the line for others. Soldiers and police officers are, by very definition, heroes because they serve us every day — often doing things most of us don’t even want to know about to protect us.

Those men and women are true heroes.

And then there are situations when everyday folks do things that elevate them to that elite status.

Such an event took place on Aug. 13-15, when torrential rainfalls in the greater Baton Rouge area swamped a massive swath of geography stretching from North Baton Rouge and Denham Springs south to St. James Parish, and from Robert westward into Acadiana west of Lafayette. For some perspective, one meteorologist estimates the equivalent of the volume of Lake Pontchartrain was dumped on this area in a 24-hour period.

Families were trapped by waters rising several feet in hours, drowning out their vehicles and sending many to their roofs.

And local authorities were unprepared. That’s not a criticism, though. While heavy rains were expected, the kind of flooding we in the flooded region were experiencing as this magazine went to press was nothing short of biblical. It’s hard to be ready for a disaster that shattered all recorded historical floods.

Not to fear: Louisiana’s sportsmen jumped into the breach, organizing patrols of boaters who ferried families to safety.

One such group including 60 boats that became known as the “Cajun Navy” was headed up by our very own Jared Serigné, who produces Sportsman TV. Even Bassmaster Elite Series pro and Sportsman TV host Greg Hackney launched a boat as soon as he could get back to his hometown of Gonzales from the latest Elite Series stop.

These boaters saved hundreds of people even before sheriff’s offices and other authorities could mobilize. And they continued to work — often fighting heavy currents that threatened to overturn their boats — until officials were able to take over.

Serigne said his crew, largely made up of outdoorsmen from the New Orleans area, felt they didn’t have a choice but to respond because people helped pull them to safety after Katrina pummeled their region.

But they could have sat at home and watched everything unfold on the news. Instead, they jumped into action and saved hundreds of lives.

That, folks, is what true heroes do.