Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news: veterans who saved lives. Over the years, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by the presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.
Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:
1. Chris Mintz
Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.
According to a student witness Chris "ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. ... He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building."
While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn't exactly something covered by the VA. That didn't stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin'.)
2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone
The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.
"My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, 'Get him,' so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself," Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.
Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.
"He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever," said Skarlatos.
In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant's incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, "Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known." The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country's highest award for gallantry, the Legion d'Honneur medal.
3. Kendrick Taylor
In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.
"What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That's when I ran over to help her," Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. "When I looked down I didn't know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help."
DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor's intervention. Taylor's act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.
4. Andrew Myers
It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, "Hey, what's up?"
"I live here," said the hooded man.
"You definitely do not live here," Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,
"I do live here, buddy."
A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, "Hey, you wouldn't happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?" That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.
It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit's beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to YouTube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.
In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up "Home Alone" style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I'd say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.
5. Eddy Peoples
Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn't expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn't expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.
During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, "If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it."
I'm guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.
"To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That's all it was for me. You know, you don't point weapons at children."
Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.
When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, "Daddy, did you get that bad man?" to which Peoples replied "Yeah, I got that bad man."
6. Devin McClean
Not every story ends the way you'd like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the "Fake Beard Bandit," this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store's employees.
One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there... but it didn't.
The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain's, "Zero Gun Policy" when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.
Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,
"I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?"
Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn't. He's still fired. I'm just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah's goin' to O'Reilly's.
7. Earl Jones
Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn't like being woken up. He especially doesn't like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.
When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.
"Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no," Jones told CBS News.
When asked why he didn't dial 911, Jones replied:
"What? I'm a military man now. I ain't gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin'. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn't a shot him, he'd a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That's seconds. That ain't no damned hours."
Old man, you've made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I'm just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.
Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It's seconds. It isn't hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can't always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.
When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.
Heroism isn't about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.
There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.
Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They've been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.
Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans' welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.
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