Tag Archives: heroes

The humblest of heroes

For as long as I draw breath, I will not understand how heroes rise to the challenges that confront them while their lives are in dire peril.

I just read four letters that one hero wrote home. He talked about facing an enemy intent on killing him and his buddies. He said he never wanted to be a hero. However, he accepted that those who believe he is a hero wanted to treat him as such.

You’ve heard the name Audie Murphy. He died in 1971 at a young age in a plane crash. He led a troubled life after earning the Medal of Honor near the end of World War II. The Medal of Honor citation tells how he single-handedly silenced a Nazi German armored unit and saved the town of Holzwihr, France; the town honors Murphy annually, saluting the exploits he delivered to the people of that tiny town on the France-Germany border.

In and Around Magazine published the letters that Murphy wrote home to his family and friends in Farmersville, Texas — which also stages an annual Audie Murphy Day. Full disclosure: I write freelance articles for the company that publishes In and Around Magazine. It is not entirely clear to me that Murphy actually lived in Farmersville, but the dog tags the Army issued to him engraved Farmersville as his hometown. That is good enough for those who live there today.


What is so striking to me as I read the letters (the link I attached to this blog post will enable you to read them, too) is the overarching humility that Murphy expresses. He wrote this in one of his missives: “I’d rather return to the Colmar pocket in France than face another ‘welcome home’ or review another parade.” He continued, “But you can’t say ‘no’ to people who are honoring you and I appreciate all that has been done for me.”

In another letter home, Murphy writes that “there are a lot of things that can make a man brave. Wanting to go back to Texas, lack of sleep, anger, disgust, discomfort and hate — those things won me my medals, and they’ve won medals for many other guys. There are fellows over there who wanted to come home more than anything else who will never get back. Those are those guys who should get the medals, not me.”

We’ll be celebrating Veterans Day soon. Audie Murphy isn’t around to receive the tributes he deserves to this day. My sense is that he wouldn’t want to be bask in the “glory” of what likely was the worst day of his life.

Audie Murphy personified heroism in its finest form. Circumstances found him, which is the way it goes for those who earn the title of “hero.”


Honor the first responders

As the nation enters this weekend to commemorate an anniversary many of us would rather forget, I feel the need to implore us all to recall a specific element of that event we are remembering.

It’s known these days simply as “9/11.” It broke wide open in front of us 20 years ago. Terrorists hijacked four jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died that day.

Many of them happened to be men and women who rushed into the inferno in New York. They were firefighters, police officers and medical personnel. They sought to save lives imperiled by the flames, particularly those that consumed the towers. They were the embodiment of untold courage. They taught us all the meaning of service to the community, to the country and to the world.

I want to remember these people. I want to honor them and to use these words to suggest that we owe them eternal gratitude for the service they perform every day.

These men and women take oaths to protect us and to serve us. On 9/11, not a single one of them went to work that morning believing they would run into the inferno ignited by madmen. Many of them died in that rush into harm’s way; many others lived to tell their own stories.

I also want to offer a word of tribute to the passengers who rose up to right the terrorists who hijacked the jetliner that ended up crashing into the field in Shanksville, Pa. All of them performed heroic acts that defy my level of understanding.

Many of our brave first responders suffered medical calamities as a result of what they endured. Still more of them have battled emotional trauma now known as PTSD.

We toss the term “hero” around far too loosely to suit my taste. I don’t use the word often in this forum or even when I speak about it. The folks who answered the call when the jets crashed into our lives on 9/11 all were heroes in the very finest sense of the word.

We must honor them always … and forever.


Heroes emerge in the rubble

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We’ve all been shocked and horrified at the images of the collapsed condominium tower in Surfside, Fla.

I want to take a moment to honor the heroes who have emerged  from the rubble as firefighters, police, military personnel and civilians search for survivors.

We keep hearing stories of men and women hearing voices from deep inside the wreckage of the building.

To be sure, with 159 people unaccounted for, I dread the prospect that awaits the loved ones waiting and hoping for miracles to present themselves.

President Biden has pledged the federal government’s full support. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is delivering all he can as well to assist the stricken community. There apparently are many questions to answer, such as those dealing with known structural deficiencies in the condo. So help me I have never heard of an U.S.-built structure such as this one just collapse under its own weight.

However, the heroes have emerged and will continue to emerge as the search goes on for those who trapped under the mountain of rubble. I am going to offer a prayer, as well, for the suffering community.

Hoping we never lose our love for heroic responders

The world has been paying appropriate tribute of late to the heroes among us who save lives every day.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought our appreciation for those heroes to new levels. I want that appreciation to remain as intense as it is at this moment.

The media are full of stories of nurses, doctors, truck drivers, firefighters, neighbors, grocery store clerks, restaurant wait staffers — you name ’em — performing acts of kindness. Many of them are performing heroic acts in the face of exposure to a killer viral infection.

Moreover, the rest of us have found our voices of appreciation for all that we are getting. Those of us who found it awkward to offer a simple “thank you” no longer hide behind our shyness. We are speaking out. We are demonstrating our gratitude.

All of this, in my view, is one of the positive impacts of the pandemic. We are expressing ourselves in meaningful ways to those who serve us diligently even when we are not battling a silent but ruthless killer virus.

This crisis will end eventually. We’ll get back to what we hope will be a “normal life.” I happen to be one American who hopes the “new normal” will include our intense desire to express thanks to those who thrust themselves into harm’s way to protect the rest of us from harm.

Can’t stop thinking about heroes among us

It’s not that I want to stop thinking about them, but my thoughts keep returning to the heroes among us, the folks we too often take for granted.

Once we get past the pandemic that has effectively shut down the Texas and national economies, I would hope that we never take for granted the individuals and groups of individuals we continually salute in this time of extreme peril.

You know who they are: doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and police officers; they are grocery store clerks, lawn care crews, mechanics of all stripes; truck drivers, ambulance drivers, taxi drivers, armored vehicle drivers; they are teachers, school administrators, custodial staff members, librarians, cafeteria cooks, office personnel.

I want to mention, too, the media representatives who report the news to us, who deliver the images, write the words, provide context and who offer snippets of critical thinking that make us analyze how well or poorly our government at all levels is responding to our needs.

They might be your next-door neighbor or the family across the street or the folks around the corner.

We’ll get past this crisis eventually. I hope it is sooner rather than later. I fear that it might stick around for a whole lot longer than we would prefer.

I long have lamented the overuse of the term “hero.” We attach that form of high praise to individuals who don’t deserve it. The individuals and groups we see each day performing above and beyond what we normally expect of them qualify as heroes.

The reporting of the myriad heroic acts we see daily will stay with me for a long time. I hope they stay with me forever. I do not want to lose sight of the good that is arising from the tragedy that has claimed so many lives, sickened so many more of us and delivered misery to so many loved ones around the world.

We all need to do better at thanking them for the work they do … for all of us!

Highway memorials: What are their stories?

TULSA, Okla. — As my wife and I have trekked across the western half of the United States I am struck by something I have seen all along the way.

Many sections of interstate and intrastate highways have signs honoring individuals’ memories. They usually are police officers or state troopers or are military men and women.

We settled into this city for a couple of nights after traveling along a stretch of U.S. 169 that contained in the span of about five or six miles four signs identifying four individuals after whom the highway is named.

I see the signs and wonder: What are the stories behind these people? Why do states or local governments choose to honor them? What did they do to earn this eternal memorial?

Hey, I am just a curious American motorist who wants to know things such as this.

This country has turned an important corner over the past two or three decades in honoring the men and women who serve in our nation’s military, as well as those who suit up to protect and serve as members of our law enforcement network.

Why not erect historical plaques near the signs identifying these individuals that would explain to motorists who would be interested to stop and read them just why the highway carries an individual’s name?

Texas does a wonderful job of placing historical markers along its tens of thousands of miles of highway. It doesn’t explain to motorists why some stretches of highways carry signs honoring the memories of law enforcement and military personnel.

Our nation was built by heroes. I suspect all the individuals whose names are on those signs have committed acts of heroism that cost them their lives.

I would like to know their stories.

This is a seriously profound Thanksgiving story

One of these days — probably in the not-too-distant future — a little 1-year-old boy is going to become aware of a young man who saved his life. He will give heartfelt thanks to the effort of that young man and several other strangers who performed heroic deeds on Thanksgiving Eve, 2018.

Byron Campbell, 21 years of age, noticed smoke coming from an east Dallas apartment complex on Wednesday. (That’s him in the picture.) He rushed the building. He and several other individuals then began knocking on doors, informing residents of the fire, urging them to get out. First-floor residents dragged mattresses out so those on the upper floors could jump onto them while escaping the inferno.

A young woman was trapped on the third floor of the apartment building. She was holding her infant son. Byron stood on the ground urging her to let the baby go. He would catch him. The mom did it. The baby dropped and Byron caught him. He was safe.

Mom and Dad were able to escape the burning building. Indeed, everyone inside the structure escaped unharmed. The building was demolished. A Dallas firefighter suffered minor injuries.

This is the kind of story that makes one proud of humanity.

A group of young men risked their lives to save others. One of them had the presence of mind to steel himself for a harrowing escape orchestrated by a panicked woman who thought only of saving her helpless child. The woman placed her faith in the arms — and the heart — of a complete stranger.

I cannot possibly know how this young family will be thinking and feeling on this day we give thanks. I’ll start with the obvious: They will give thanks for the young man who saved their little boy’s life.

Soon, so will the little boy.


Heroes never seek recognition

I love writing about heroes. Indeed, I believe heroes and the deeds the perform are my favorite topics in writing this blog.

Frankly, I don’t know why that’s the case. It might be a product of my boyhood fascination with them. Perhaps that fascination never has left me.

I just posted a blog item a few minutes ago about the firefighters doing battle with the flames in California. They are heroes of the highest order. So are police officers. So are the medical personnel who respond first when disaster strikes.

Yes, I count the military men and women who answer the call to defend the nation as heroes.

Heroes all have a few things in common.

First and foremost is that they don’t consider themselves to be heroes. To a person, they shy away from the title of “hero.” They’re just doing their job. They’re in the “wrong place at the right time,” or maybe it’s the “right place at the wrong time.”

They don’t boast about their exploits, any more than rich people brag about their wealth, or smart people boast about their intelligence. Hmm … am I sticking my finger in anyone’s eye here? I suppose so . . . but I digress.

Heroes don’t look for opportunities to display their heroic tendencies. These opportunities are thrust upon them. A warrior who walks among his or her comrades on patrol becomes a hero when enemy soldiers open fire on them and that warrior responds to the horror that erupts all over them.

The firefighter who hears the bell at the fire house heads toward an unknown “enemy.” A police officer pulls over a traffic violator never knowing with any degree of certainty how that traffic stop will conclude, which is why I never use the term “routine traffic stop” when discussing these incidents. I did one time early in my career as a reporter and a local sheriff schooled me about a fundamental truth known to cops everywhere: “There’s no such thing as a ‘routine traffic stop.'”

Cops are heroes. So are firefighters. Same with paramedics. So are the military personnel who defend us against those who seek to harm us.

I love writing about them all. Doing so fills me with pride that I can honor them in this small way.

This is what heroes look like

Take a good look at this picture, which appeared on social media this afternoon.

It is a picture of firemen trying to grab a couple of winks. They’re dog tired. Exhausted. Whipped. They are covered in dirt and soot.

These are just a few of the heroes fighting those fires in California. They are among the men and women who get paid to do things some of us might have fantasized about when we were kids, but who found other ways to earn a living when we grew up.

These individuals chose to pursue careers dedicated to public service. They are performing that service at the highest levels imaginable as I write these words.

Other firefighters from around the country are rushing to their side to give them relief, to lend their own expertise, skill and courage in helping quell the flames that have killed dozens of victims, decimated thousands of acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes, ruined countless lives.

These heroes are trying to catch their breath before heading back into the hell on Earth that awaits them.

Godspeed to them all.

Today we honor the heroes

Heroes never seek to achieve their special status. Events are thrust upon them.

Seventeen years ago today, on a bright Tuesday morning, events occurred in this country that created heroes who were reacting instinctively. They sought to protect others’ lives against the harm that had arrived without warning.

Terrorists commandeered jetliners. They flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, another one into the Pentagon, and a fourth jetliner crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after a titanic in-flight struggle between heroic passengers and the monsters who sought to crash that aircraft into the U.S. Capitol Building.

The date is now known simply as 9/11. You say “9/11” and everyone knows the date, what they were doing when they heard the horrific news.

I want to honor the heroes along with the victims today. The victims, nearly 3,000 of them, were simply going about their day. They were at work, they were in school, they were being cared for in day-care centers.

Terrorists acting in the name of some perversion of a great religion sought to strike at this nation. They awakened the fighting spirit of a proud people.

They produced heroes. They were the firefighters, police officers and medical personnel who ran into the burning buildings. They taught us the lessons of tried-and-true heroism.

Their legacy lives on to this day. It will live forever. Our nation should be grateful for all of eternity that they answered the call to their duty to serve the public.