Leonard Lomell was the Brooklyn orphan who would save Europe. Lomell enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 as an infantryman. While serving with the 76th Infantry Division, he volunteered for the Rangers program. This decision changed WWII. On June 6, 1944, before 9am, Staff Sgt. Leonard Lomell, acting Commander of D Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, disembarked with 225 of his Rangers and assaulted Point Du Hoc, a prominent escarpment between Omaha and Utah beaches at Normandy, France. Although wounded by German machine gun fire while wading ashore from his landing craft, Staff Sgt Lomell and 11 of his men made it to the top of the cliffs and disabled 5 long-range 155mm guns and multiple fortified machine gun nests. These actions saved the lives of thousands of his comrades and ensured the success of the amphibious portion of the D-Day invasion.
Frank Hall was an assistant football coach at Chardon High School in 2012. His seemingly menial job, when not coaching football or supervising weight training, was to monitor study halls and lunch in the school cafeteria. On February 27, 2012, he also became the guy who would save the lives of countless students and faculty by challenging and chasing an active shooter through the halls of, and ultimately out of, Chardon High School.
Chief Master Sergeant John Gebhardt was the Superintendant of the 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. I saw a photo of him taken while on duty at Balad Air Base in Iraq. A little Iraqi girl had been shot multiple times and had undergone lifesaving surgery. Sgt. Gebhardt’s staff nurses couldn’t get the little girl to rest: she just cried and moaned. The only person who could calm her down was Sgt. Gebhardt. This exhausted man was not too tired to give more. In the photo, the small, badly injured child lay sleeping on the soldier’s chest. I saw a man who offered his body as a refuge from war and pain.
Then there was this ordinary man who was behaving in an extraordinary way along the Riverwalk in New Castle the other day. I saw him riding a too-small bike with his six children following behind on their bikes as they all zipped in and out of the fountains and rocks. Their laughter was music to me and their smiles brightened an already beautiful day. The expressions on the children’s faces made it clear who their hero was that day. There was this man just being brave enough to be a dad and simultaneously giving his children a great day.
All of these men probably looked in the mirror and occasionally envisioned who they could become. Maybe they ran through scenarios in their heads; pre-planning the kind of man they would like to be when the time came to “get real”. All of us guys do that. Maybe they had great mentors. Maybe it was in their upbringing. Maybe it’s found in their faith in God. I think it’s all the above. Maya Angelou said “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.” And may I add “Real”.
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