Off Duty Heroes


(Navy photo)

Gidget Fuentes’ recent Navy Times story about three Sailors and a Marine (Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Recruit Matthew Coston, Aviation Structural Mechanic Airmen Jesse Tuhy and Zachary Snodgrass, and Pfc. John Wise) jumping in – while on lunch break – to save a woman from attempted rape and robbery gave me pause. As I look back, it seems to me that when you hear of someone stepping out of the crowd to thwart a criminal or save a life, they are inevitably an off-duty policeman, an off-duty fireman, or an off-duty military member. My first entry in the Heroes series talked about Wesley Autry, a Navy vet who jumped onto the tracks of an oncoming subway to save an unconscious man. His veteran status was barely mentioned in the press – most accounts left it out completely. But he was a vet.

The Coast Guard released the story of Scott Osetek, an Electricians Mate First Class at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, who stopped a burning bus and put out the flames, potentially saving 50 school children from burning to death. He had only been married three days and was headed off on his Honeymoon, but he risked his life nonetheless. He said, “I had an idea of what needed to be done and did it.”

Many years ago I heard about a robbery attempt being thwarted by two Navy SEALs who happened to pass by just as the thief was running out of the jewelry store (hint: he didn’t get far). Similar stories have been written all over the country.

What is it in the makeup of these people? Did they get it in the military? Or did they gravitate toward the military because they already shared the same character trait – the same desire to protect?

It doesn’t matter. Regardless of the genesis, our men and women in the military have it. Home grown or inherited through the military experience, the instinct to protect is strong. Just because they’re not wearing the uniform doesn’t mean they stop being the embodiment of what that uniform represents.

To all those who have seen, “…what needed to be done and did it,” we salute you as Heroes of the Week.


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