The world continues on past December 21, 2012, and not because the Mayans made a calendared miscalculation. No, the world will keep moving forward in its expansion as long as we have humans who unselfishly dedicate themselves to the furthering of mankind with their acts of courage and heroism. We close out 2012, a year that has seen incredible acts of both bravery and destruction, by honoring people of character whose actions were based on their principles, not their egos.
A few days ago at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, a young teacher made the ultimate sacrifice by sheltering her students from bullets. There were no second thoughts, just a gut reaction from a human who instinctively acted on the principles with which she led her life. Another hero emerged from this story — the singer/songwriter Paul Simon. Upon learning that her favorite song was the “Sounds of Silence,” Simon immediately made his way to honor her at the funeral and sang her on to the next world with the words of her favorite song.
We loosely refer to the young men and women who join our military in order to serve and protect our way of life as our latest modern day heroes. They are honorable and courageous, of course, but not automatically heroes, although some are. Take Pat Tillman who died in a war zone allegedly performing a heroic deed. He actually died over a horrible mistake in which he was killed by his own troops in a misnomer termed friendly fire. But Tillman still gained heroic status. He gave up the glamorous, lucrative life of a pro football player because he felt he had a duty to serve his country. He is a hero not because he died performing a heroic deed, but because he put his principals ahead of his ego.
I grant true hero status for soldiers like my good friend's brother, Dale Wayrynen, who on pure instinct alone, jumped on a live grenade to shield the bodies of his fellow troopers and protect the mission. What was his reward? He received a posthumous Medal of Honor and a return to a hometown heroes’ welcome in McGregor. He carries with him a legend of honor and courage that will follow him throughout the annals of the military history of our country.
Several perennial heroes reside in our community of Moose Lake, although you sometimes have to dig behind the scenes to find them. Year after year on Thanksgiving Day you will find Russ Dahl serving a free turkey dinner. For the past few years, Tony Stewart has combined with the friendly volunteers at the Sonshine Closet, collecting and distributing Toys for Tots.
I witnessed many courageous and honorable acts in 2012 when our community was inundated with a historic flood. Thanks to the people from ages 8 to 92 who dedicated their time and effort by filling sandbags and serving sandwiches to help lead Moose Lake forward to its post-flood future.
A special thanks to a behind-the scenes leader, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing, who in two short years walked into Moose Lake and courageously made the tough decisions required to move forward in the 21st Century.
Last but not least, I deeply admire the friend who was strong enough to toss his addictions out the window in order to save his marriage, wife and family. That is when you show the true character and principles of a life you are willing to live by.