Natural Born Heroes: Never Called Upon

We all know of the well-recognized people who have done heroic things, moreover there are many heroes, and for whatever reason, they are never recognized. What about those who you know from their nature would make the supreme sacrifice, even for a stranger, but are never called upon? I have been privileged to know several of these people. I like to call them “Natural Born Heroes.”The recent passing of another of these, Staff Sgt. Roger Williamette, got me to thinking.


The late Staff Sgt. Roger Williamette

So who are these Natural Born Heroes? I have to believe that almost every firefighter, rescue worker, many police officers, members of the armed forces, and scores of civilians fit this description. Let’s face it; anyone who runs into a burning building, no matter who they are, cares more about their fellow man than themselves – that is heroic.  Likewise, “grenade jumpers,” whether they throw themselves on it or pick it up to get rid of it are on the top of the list. Even those good Samaritans, who help at an accident scene on the highway, are exposing themselves to risk that they could easily avoid.

Sadly, too often these things are not witnessed, or in the case of the military, the witnesses don’t survive long enough to document the event. But, these folks don’t do it for recognition; anyone looking for recognition is too self-absorbed to expose themselves to harm. I have had the privilege to meet around a dozen Medal of Honor recipients. All of them were very humble and want the recognition to go to their comrades who did not return.   

But what of the heroes never called upon? It is hard recognize, much less reward potential. I know that some of you are thinking that you never really know how someone will react when called upon or under fire, “Fight or Flight?” This is true, I have seen soldiers who were a “problem child” in garrison, but really rise to the occasion in the field. On the flip side I have seen stellar soldiers in garrison become of severely degraded value when deprived of their required eight hours of sleep. However, those individuals who truly epitomizes selfless-service are obvious and unflappable.

I’d like to say a few words about one of them, Williamette. When I met him, prior to our first deployment, he was in his mid-50s and yet in better shape then many soldiers half his age. He had held many different occupations, but one thing was consistent, his Combat Lifesaver Certification was always up to date. Although never a medic, Williamette carried a full size medic bag, not the standard small CLS bag. This massive kit he purchased and stocked on his own, just because that was the way he was. 

When I was going on my first deployment my wife expressed some concern about my safety. I told her “You don’t have to worry, I will be with Roger.” “There is no way I could throw myself on a grenade faster then him.” Although my wife had only met Williamette a few times, she knew exactly what I meant. 

I recently found out that my friend Roger passed away last January.  He was never called upon to run into a burning building, but to anyone who knew him well he was a Natural Born Hero. 

So, I guess this me sending a salute to all of you Natural Born Heroes out there.  Hopefully the Almighty will never need to call on you, but we should all be comforted to know that you exist. 

Be sure to thank every firefighter, EMT, police officer, and member of the armed forces that you meet.

Respectfully submitted,

Eric J. Andringa