Soldiers' pro-social and altruistic behaviors is a crucial subject for two reasons. The first one is the professional specificity, a service based on autotelic values inscribed in the organizational culture. The second reason is related to the first one, but apart from the axiological dimension, it refers to the soldiers' constitutional duties as guarantors of multidimensional security for all social groups that contribute to the national social system. That applies not so much to the soldier's professional obligation as to the natural and internal need to help people in every situation. Given the issues raised, it should be assumed that military universities, apart from their educational function, are institutions building an individual axio-normative order of candidates for professional soldiers. It is primarily aimed at shaping pro-social and altruistic attitudes. Their practical dimension manifests itself in many initiatives launched by the students to assist people in various random situations, including emergencies.
Although the range of such initiatives is extensive, the most visible are the students' pro-social behavior during the first wave of the COVID-19 crown pandemic. They had not only an institutional but also an individual dimension. One of the pro-social actions was the anti-crisis operation organized with the Territorial Defense Forces soldiers under the code name "Resilient Spring" that involved almost 500 military students. Besides, they also took part in other initiatives for the benefit of society, including the delivery of food, medicine, and other necessary materials and products, support for veterans, material support for people in quarantine and veterans of overseas operations, the elderly, the disabled, and single parents. A fundamental element of the pro-social campaign carried out by AWL military students during the pandemic was the blood donation campaign on March 19—May 25, 2020, thanks to which 180.65 L of blood were collected. Also, five aid campaigns for hospices and assistance for the St. Brother Albert for Homeless Women were initiated (Bodziany, 2021).
Two classical perspectives were used as a theoretical basis for researching the behavior of military students in circumstances of random events. The first one concerns pro-social, while the second one refers to altruistic behavior, whose formal framework is found in the "Code of Honor of a Polish Soldier" (Polish: Kodeks Honorowy Żołnierza Wojska Polskie-go, KHŻWP). The provisions contained in the introduction to the afore-mentioned document are essential for examining this type of activity. There we read: "Professional soldiers perform military service for the benefit of the Republic of Poland. This service requires discipline, loyalty, and sacrifice. The semantic key of the analysis is the word "sacrifice", which is the basis of the fundamental virtues contained in the chapter entitled "Dignity and honor of a professional soldier." These include patriotism, valor, honesty, responsibility, justice, truthfulness, and professional solidarity. The most important provisions for the analysis of the relationship between the specificity of the profession and the type of behavior are contained in the chapter entitled "Dignity and honor of a professional soldier": "A professional soldier out-side the service." They sound as follows: "He or she is not indifferent to negative attitudes and actions. He or she helps those in need and acts in defense of the victims" (KHŻWP). Accepting these records as a cultural canon of a total, relatively closed and formalized organization (Davies, 1989, pp. 77–95; more: Goffman, 1975), it should be assumed that pro-social and altruistic behaviors among soldiers (and candidates for soldiers) are more characterized by a clear, descriptive relationship than in the case of other, particularly non-uniformed, professional groups. For the study, however, the assumption was made that candidates for professional soldiers in the first year of service (basic training—lasting about one month of service) have a different set of pro-social values than candidates in higher years of service. That is due to the short period of adaptation to service and the limited military experience. It means that the research concerned the propensity for such behaviors based on environmental factors shaping their values within primary and secondary socialization and through an upbringing in the family and school. A question arose from the adopted assumptions that concerned the propensity of candidates for professional soldiers to devotion, sacrifice, heroism, and disinterestedness. They shaped socially and culturally in a diverse "civil" environment, in the reality of ubiquitous consumption, and the growing prevalence of instrumental values over autotelic ones.
As already underlined, the theoretical basis of the research was the theory of pro-social behavior, the sine qua non of which is the fulfillment of the following conditions: recognition of a (someone else's) need, recognition that this need can be met, recognition of one's own responsibility, and assessment of the costs of assistance. In emergencies, it is reduced practically to a minimum through an impulsive reaction. It means violent, resulting from the influence of socialization and upbringing from the past, the compulsion to respond when facing a random event, a disaster, or a tragedy. Many authors have written about environmental factors of pro-social behavior. Particularly noteworthy are the reflections of Daniel Batson and his co-authors, whose interests have focused on the etiology of pro-social behavior, including empathy. (Batson et al., 1995, pp. 619–631; Batson & Ahmad, 2009; Batson & Powell, 2003, pp. 463–484).
Sources of pro-social as well as altruistic behavior have contributed to not only Badson's but also many other authors' scientific investigations. The analysis of the literature leads to explicating the following ones: empathy—an emotional state induced by the situation of another person, internalization (assimilation) of norms dictating acting on behalf of others, such as the norm of reciprocity, the norm of love for people, the norm of social responsibility, as well as building personal bonds, for example, friendship and sympathy, and treating another person as an autonomous value (more: Batson & Shaw, 1991, pp. 107–122; Kaur, 2019, pp. 227–229). Apart from the factors mentioned above, a sense of bond with other people is also mentioned, which can be felt towards people (in smaller or larger social groups). It should be stressed that pro-social behavior is also associated with general personality traits such as honesty, humility, amicability, as well as, appearing in most studies, empathy, and orientation towards others (Penner et al., 2005, pp. 365–392; Eisenberg & Fabes, 1990, pp. 131–149). The article written by Samuel Quain and others, entitled "Pro-Social Behavior amongst Students of Tertiary Institutions: An Explorative and a Quantitative Approach" (Quain, Yidana et. al. 2016), developed from student-based research, constituted the basis for the comparison of his research findings with those of others. The study highlights the environmental implications of a propensity for pro-social behavior depending on age (student population), gender, and social background.
As for altruism, it should be stressed that is "[…] is one of the most important moral virtues that is worth striving for in the upbringing of children and young people. It is a virtue (or value) considered fundamental and universal (Łobocki, 2006, p. 108). The need to develop al-truism in the process of upbringing is penetrated by the fact that it is not only a counterbalance to various anti-social behaviors and attitudes but also a need to shape proper interpersonal inter-actions, especially in a society based on technology and information, in which the loss of ordinary interpersonal relations is becoming increasingly evident (Łobocki, 1999, p. 30). Taking Blechman's definition of altruism as an interpretative framework for the concept describes altruism as "unselfish behavior to promote the good of others despite harming oneself" (2002, p. 23), this phenomenon should be seen in terms of its integrity with pro-social activities. For without altruism shaped "in itself," a human would not be able to act selflessly on behalf of another person or even an institution. Regardless of the definition, altruism reveals all desirable characteristics for such a specific institution as the Armed Forces. The requirements placed on soldiers described not only in the codes of honor of various armed forces but also in the regulations and instructions, give altruism an institutional character. That is underpinned by the need to shape disinterestedness, cooperation, and mutual assistance, which are essential in military action and beyond. That means that altruism (although not literally) is or at least should be a feature of every soldier. It also results from the mere availability to the public and the constitutional duties of the state.
It is imperative for our research to establish a framework for interpreting the qualities that are even indispensable in the soldier's profession (service), including courage and heroism. Together with traditions and history, they form a knightly ethos, as a catechism set at the top of the hierarchy of values of the axio-normative order of the Armed Forces (more: Wardzała-Kordyś & Bodziany, 2012, pp. 264–261). On this ground, an interpretative dilemma related to the fundamental question of who can be qualified as a hero arises. Zenon W. Dudek presents a hero as "[…] an exceptional character, breaking out of collective rights; an original, strong and, expressive individuality […]" (Dudek, 2007, p. 10). The essence of heroism is not revealed in the form of heroic morality but as an effect of heroic action. Following this reflection, "…a person who, whether by overcoming natural fear or without special effort, performs acts beyond the bounds of duty […] heroism is not an obligation and cannot be required from all people to act like heroes" can be called a hero (Pybus, 1982, p. 193). Thus, heroism is an unusual phenomenon that impacts social awareness. On the other hand, a hero is usually coded in social perception as a person with above-average, even supernatural qualities, and skills (New, 1974, p. 181). It is worth emphasizing that "[…] heroism is a factor that influences the other members of a given nation and not only them, while human heroism has a nation-building character in a double dimension: firstly, it is a model and the strengthening for those who participate in the same culture. Secondly, it is a challenge to encourage those who live next to it (Tarasiewicz, 2010, p. 55). A hero also plays the culturally creative role of a model to follow, and his/her image is described by two related characteristics, namely heroism and virtue. That is justified by several approaches, which reveal the thesis that the more a person respects moral principles, acts according to socially shaped patterns, and is guided by rational thinking, the less heroic, and thus less capable of heroic actions, and vice versa, he or she is. (Bodziany, 2019, p. 64). Heroism and virtue are "unity"—a coherent whole embedded in traditional moral philosophy. It is the domain of exceptional people whose actions do not expect applause, praise, or rewards, and above all, the heroes treat heroic deeds as a duty (Annas, 2015). According to J. O. Urmson, the creator of the concept of sovereignty, such a claim is an act of "false modesty." The author also considers virtue in combination with heroism as holiness, but it is not the frequency of deeds that matters, but their sources (Chopra, 1963). The essence of heroism understood as a virtue is expressed in words: "Heroism represents the ideal of citizens transforming civic virtue into the highest form of civic action, accepting either physical peril or social sacrifice" (9; Franco et al., 2016, 337). Except for the authors cited, the works relating to heroism and virtue of such researchers as Muel Kaptein (2008) and Goethals and Allison (2012) are also noteworthy.
The pro-social and altruistic, and at the same time heroic behaviors are all manifestations of actions aimed at helping people in a life-threatening or health-threatening situation. The results of research informing about whether to help people or not in various life or health threatening situations can be considered as an objective indicator to assess the pro-social behavior of individuals or groups in society. That was on the grounds of the premises stemming from the analysis of scientific papers and the systematic monitoring of this category of events by the media.Footnote 1 The media, not only in Poland but all over the world, inform daily about situations when individuals, local societies, as well as the international community provide assistance to participants of events which result in fatalities or people spending the rest of their lives with disabilities.Footnote 2 Aronson et al. identify helping others in situations when such help is expected with pro-social behavior (2015, pp. 453–455). While Zimbardo and Ruch (1997, p. 548) give a selfless need to help others as an example of altruistic behavior. The Polish scientist Tadeusz Kotarbiński, describes a person that takes efficient and ethical actions in situations of threat to other people, as brave (Kotarbiński, 1987, p. 161).
The media coverage of these events makes us aware of the degree of involvement of various people from the social environment in helping victims and the injured. The message often becomes opinion-forming in the formulation of evaluations of the efficiency of intervention operations of the so-called the uniformed public services (Kałużny & Płaczek, 2011, pp. 247–253; Kałużny, 2014, pp. 217–231; Maciejewski, 2014). However, the motives and proportions of people, who did not actively participate in the rescue operation or directly refused to help the victims and individuals or groups at risk expecting such help at the scene of the incident (Aronson, 2012, pp. 55–62; Zimbardo, 2007, pp. 323–324) are unknown. It also seems to be a difficult task to determine the proportions of those who use such extreme situations for their shameful purposes (looting, rape, escalating destruction, enjoying the destruction and suffering of others). (Zimbardo, 2007, pp. 34–44).
At this stage of the analysis, the question arises of whether the type of behavior (action) can be examined using scientific methods? Like any social phenomenon, such behavior is also the subject of research in many scientific disciplines, from sociology, through social psychology, social pedagogy, to the security sciences. The next question concerns the subjects focused on the dilemma of what to research. One of them is the etiology of pro-social and altruistic behavior (a case study), as well as cause and effect relationships between independent (socio-demographic) and dependent (problem) variables based on quantitative research (questionnaire study technique) concerning the propensity to such behavior. Conclusions and postulates of expected changes, particularly in the broadly understood education, can be formulated from research results. The development of simulation methods has resulted in scientists being able to recognize these issues in various aspects of education. The choice of methods and situations is primarily determined by the formal scientific qualifications of researchers or expert teams. Regarding the subject of the research, namely, the pro-social and altruistic behavior of military students aimed at helping people in crises, the aim of the research was specified and regarded the students' propensity to help in emergencies in various circumstances (under the influence of various factors).