During the 20th century, wars were fought primarily in the name of protecting the homeland. Making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ was a national masculine duty and a key feature of military heroism. Today, human rights and international values justify war-making and legitimise military action. In one of these post-national wars, the International Security Assistance Force operation in Afghanistan, more than 700 European soldiers have lost their lives. How have these deaths been legitimised, and how has the new security discourse affected notions of masculinised heroism and sacrifice? This article investigates how the dimensions of national/international and masculinity/femininity are negotiated in media narratives of heroism and sacrifice in Denmark and Sweden. Regarding scholarly discussions on the professionalisation, individualisation and domestication of military heroism, the empirical analysis demonstrates that the Danish/Swedish nation remains posited as the core context for military heroism and sacrifice. In the media narratives, professionalism is represented as an expression of specific national qualities. The media narratives conflate nation and family and represent military heroes as distinctively masculine and national figures. It is argued that a family trope has become vital in present-day hero narratives. This trope is disposed towards collective emotions, national loyalty and conservative gender ideals.