Everyday Heroes

September 22nd, 2011

“An act demonstrating exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.”

What a young man did in Germantown a couple of weeks ago reminded me of those words, and of a couple of events I was involved with 20 years ago when I first saw them.

It also reminded me to keep the faith that the best in us will prevail.

As published in The Daily News, September 23, 2011, and in The Memphis News, September 24-30, 2011


Be prepared. We need heroes every day.

The assistant scoutmaster beside me was asking about procedure if something appeared to be broken. “Don’t do nothing,” answered the earnest, doubly negative instructor, “Transport.”

“What if it’s a compound fracture?” “Don’t do nothing,” came the reply, “Transport.” Someone else asked about tourniquets, and was told – all together now – “Don’t do nothing. Transport.”

And so it went.

We were participants in a Boy Scout adult leadership course 20 years ago, and fear of failure, or blame, or litigation, or all of the above was beginning to guide official policy and taking responsibility was becoming synonymous with taking unnecessary risk.

It seemed that the motto of “Be Prepared” was being replaced with “Don’t do nothing. Transport.” In the larger context of today’s me-first society, if confronted with something unpleasant, challenging, even scary, don’t deal with it, send it somewhere else. Not my problem.

If Jeremy Palazolo and Igor Kobas – and this may be a triple negative – didn’t “don’t do nothing,” people would have died.

Jeremy Palazolo was a scout in Troop 34. On a 1992 camping trip, his group came upon a young woman wandering in the woods babbling about a boyfriend and a cliff. While others took off to find a ranger, Jeremy and scout dad, C.B. Jolley, took off to find the boyfriend. They did – in shock, bleeding from everywhere, and on top of a waterfall he’d already fallen off of once and was about to fall off of again. Using his first aid training and pieces of his and C.B.’s clothing, Jeremy treated the boyfriend for shock, stopped the bleeding, and, according to what rangers told me later, probably saved the young man’s life. The Boy Scouts gave Jeremy their Medal Of Merit, honoring an act “demonstrating exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.” Jeremy was all of 15 at the time. And exceptional indeed.

He didn’t think what he did was a big deal.

I don’t know if Igor Kobas was a scout, but what he did is what being prepared is all about. A couple of weeks ago, faced with a young man bleeding out, with the ambulance trapped on the other side of the train that had just severed his leg, with the onlookers either screaming or on cell phones or both, Igor whipped off his belt, tied off the wound, and gave that young man the chance to become an old one. I don’t know what recognition Igor will receive, but we should all recognize what a positive difference calm, reasoned response can make in the midst of crisis and hysteria. Igor is all of 21. And exceptional indeed.

After the ambulance pulled away, Igor walked back across the street and finished his valet parking shift at Elfo’s.

In this old scoutmaster’s opinion, a lot of scouting, and life, should be about taking responsibility, and about leaving a campsite, or wherever you’ve been, better than you found it.

I’m a Memphian, and Jeremy and Igor make us better.


Charles Byrd: I agree. In a world of dads living vicariously through their son-athletes, it's unfortunate too many parents put their boys in a dichotomy of Scouts and team sports. Team sports, while beneficial, focus primarily on self and usually end at 18. BSA focuses on self but only to the extent of improving that self to serve others and ends at one's last breath.

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