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Honoring our heroes, regular folks who do amazing things

POSTED: November 6, 2011 12:30 a.m.

A few days ago, I shared the platform with Dr. Rodger Murchison at the First Baptist Church in Augusta.

It was one of those occasions when you would rather not be there, but it was the right place to be.

Murchison offered the eulogy at the funeral for Richmond County Deputy J.D. Paugh, who was gunned down in the line of duty. His death was a senseless act that both enraged and rallied the Augusta community.

Murchison is a veteran minister who has officiated at more than his fair share of funerals. I marveled at his ability to offer words of both healing and comfort to a hurting family and a hurting community.

He called Paugh a hero and explained that a hero was an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

"The making of a hero is day after day doing what is right," Murchison said. "Even when you are tired. Even when you are going home late at night and the day has been long, but your duty tells you someone might need me."

For the uniformed men and women in the audience, his words rang true. They go to work every day not knowing if a life-threatening situation might be on that day's unplanned agenda.

Paugh was on his way home from working a detail at the fair in Augusta when he noticed a car pulled over on the side of the road. The driver, Christopher Michael Hodges, was arguing with his girlfriend. Hodges unloaded 42 rounds from an assault rifle. Nine of those shots hit Paugh, who had turned around to see if he could help the couple.

Hodges later used his weapon to take his own life.

Less than a week later, an Albany police officer, Terry Lewis Fleming, was pursuing a pair of robbery suspects when her police car crashed and exploded into flames. She was killed and laid to rest last week.

I think we all, at times, want to live in Mayberry, a neighborly place where a law enforcement officer has little need for a gun. We long for that utopian venue where everyone is friendly and kind. That place, unfortunately, doesn't exist in today's world.

This is a week for heroes. On Friday, Nov. 11, we honor those who have worn the uniform of our nation to protect the freedoms we should hold dearly, but often take for granted. Some are elderly men who long ago left small towns to face down a threatening menace in Europe or the Pacific. Others are young men and women who felt the call of our nation in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of those heroes bear the scars of battle or have paid the ultimate price.

There has been a lot of talk about freedom in recent days as we witness a nationwide protest effort by people across America. While there is much dissension, they are partaking of the same freedom that we have enjoyed in this nation since its birth.

Heroes who protect our freedoms should be remembered daily. If you see a man or woman in uniform, offer a good word of thanks for the service they provide.

Several thousand people offered their thanks to J.D. Paugh and Terry Lewis Fleming. It was a shame they weren't there to acknowledge it.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.



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