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I Was a Hero Once And Young
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A Single Act of Heroism
I have been in the army for three years now. Accordingly, I have pulled my share of guard duties. The other day I once again found myself at the gate pulling guard duty, a task that I have only performed a few times prior. A gate guard cannot leave his post. The main duty of the gate guard is to control who and what gets into the motor pool, a task that I take very seriously. Command and control of the gate is vital to the security of the motor pool. Ever since my childhood I have never believed that I could ever be a hero. But on that day, a woman, and an SUV would banish that belief out of my life forever after.
An hour into my guard shift, I got bored and decided to start reading my book. Very few people are on the roads at this hour of the morning. The traffic consists mostly of senior NCOs. The traffic around the post is very hectic, especially around physical training time. So the senior leaders arrive early to “beat the traffic.” As I started to get into my book, and pretend that I am the main character, my train of thought is suddenly and abruptly interrupted. I am suddenly slammed back into reality by the screeching sound of tortured tires on pavement, crying for mercy. I sat up with a jerk and looked towards the origin of the commotion. Out of my stations small dingy windows I saw an SUV careen off its course. The SUV was now headed towards the pool that was half full of ice-cold rainwater.
My heart started to pound and race. My heartbeats were pounding out a rhythm in my ears. It sounded and felt like the hoof beats of a galloping horse at the Kentucky Derby. The SUV slammed into and through the overhanging addition to the restroom/changing area, resulting in its complete annihilation. The SUV sped through the fence and into the pool with a deafening crash. Water splashed and cascaded over the edges of the pool, draining at least an eighth of the water in the pool, signifying the SUV’s final resting place. The crash had ended just as suddenly as it had started. Silence weighed heavily on the air. All I heard then was the constant thudding of my heart.
What To Do
“No,” I said to myself. “I can’t leave my post, but I have to help that person.” An unbearable moment of indecision passed while I fought off all of my training and finally resorted to instinct. Only a second transpired, then I took off. I started to run towards the pool. I ran across the road and over the moist grass. I then came upon the fence surrounding the pool. In a flashback to my childhood, I jumped, grabbed the top rail of the fence, and swung myself over in one fluid motion. In a squat I landed on the other side of the fence. Next I tore out of my jacket, and threw off my beret. Taking a deep breath in preparation for the shock, I jumped into the frigid water. The shock of the water took my breath away for a second, but I soon recovered my composure and resolve to save the driver. Luckily for me the SUV had enough forward momentum to take it only four feet from the edge of the pool that I jumped in from. The water, consisting solely of rainwater, was only about four and a half feet deep on this end, as it is the deep end. Reaching the half submerged SUV was easy enough. However, when I got to the drivers door I made a startling discovery.
A woman sat in the driver’s seat. Not just any woman but a pregnant woman. She slumped back in her seat dazed. The door was locked. Her window was rolled down a little bit, just enough to weaken it. So I reared back and took a swing at the window. My fist hit the window solidly, but not hard enough to break it. The window only cracked. So I swung again, this time a little bit harder and broke through. With the window broken I was able to unlock and open the door. After some coaxing and gentle slapping, the woman woke up.
“Are you alright? Is anything broken?”
“I’m ok, I just have a massive headache.”
I wasn’t going to tell her at the time, but she had a nasty cut on her head and was bleeding. She was scared enough as it was. I told her to remove the keys from the ignition and undo her seatbelt. She did it and I helped her get out of the SUV. She went into the freezing water with a gasp. Together we made our way to the edge. The sound of wailing sirens filled the air. Judging by the volume they had to be near. A couple more people had arrived and helped me get the woman out of the water. They had to grab and pull me out of the water because I was so weak at that point. After the people got me out of the water, all of the emergency people were there. An EMT gave me an army issue wool blanket, and had me sit in the back of the ambulance to warm up. The woman was loaded into a different ambulance and rushed off to the hospital to receive medical attention for her injuries. I never saw her again.
I was commended as a hero that day, honored at a ceremony, and praised by my friends and family. In reality all I did was react. The woman ended up being all right and the baby she carried was born, and healthy. I think back to it sometimes and recall the fear that I experienced. That moment of indecision still haunts me a bit. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned that even if you don’t believe you can be a hero to someone, you can. The ability is in us all. Instinct is where it lies. You just have to realize that true courage and heroism is not the absence of fear, but the perseverance in the face of fear.