Check out the news, and you can’t help taking a grim view of humanity. Yet heroes walk among us. Some we see. Many we don’t.

After an Asiana Airlines plane crashed on landing at San Francisco International last Sunday, heroes got to work. The flight crew and first responders removed passengers from harm’s way. That only two people died seems incredible.

But death has a hunger. Nineteen firefighters—members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots—died fighting a fire northwest of Phoenix. Fighting huge fires entails a great deal of danger, and these folks accepted the challenge. If you’re looking for heroes, look to them, too.

We often honor our military personnel for their sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can dispute the value of those wars but not the courage and endurance of our people sent into harm’s way, often on multiple deployments. They’ll tell you they’re just doing their job. But just being out there entails a large measure of heroism. After all, they volunteered to risk everything while so many of our citizens risk nothing.

But while it often takes a disaster to place some heroes in the spotlight, many others never get attention. Maybe what they do is modest in comparison to aircrews, firefighters, police and military personnel, yet what they do matters.

I saw a number of those heroes at the Irwin Memorial Blood Center (Masonic at Turk) last Tuesday. They took time out of their day to help people they will never meet or know. And they’ll never get recognition.

One young hero, a 33-year-old skateboarder, gave blood for the first time. He became a little woozy in the chair—not unusual for first-timers. Getting a needle stuck in a vein and watching your blood come out—if you watch—takes getting used to. When he was done, he was shaky but proud. He had a right to be. He overcame a natural fear to possibly save the life of another human being.

As for me, I’m no hero. I’ve been giving blood for decades. It’s routine. I kick back, catch up on my reading then pig out on juice and a donut (or two). Imagine my surprise when, because it was mid-afternoon, the donuts were gone. Still, that double-chocolate cookie was good. I limited myself to one because it was my birthday and I was going out to dinner that night. As it happened, we went to an acclaimed restaurant, and I didn’t like the desserts on the menu so I didn’t order one. But given the circumstances, nothing would have topped that cookie.

As August approaches, I think about First-Lieutenant Howard Jon Schnabolk, US Army, about whom I wrote in “Courage.” Howie saved the lives of countless wounded men flying a medevac helicopter in Vietnam. He was shot down and killed on 3 August 1967. We all have our heroes. Howie is mine both for his service and many charitable acts.

If I’m choking up as I write this, you’ll understand. And you’ll know why the present I most enjoyed on my birthday was the one I gave in Howie’s honor.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s novels SAN CAFÉ and SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. You’ll also find online ordering links for iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com. 

1 Comment

  1. Carolyn Perlstein on July 13, 2013 at 12:40 am

    You will always be my hero.

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