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Heroes live (& die) among us in the form of public servants

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By Dave Taylor

Front page announcements in The Trimble Banner this week and last informed the community of the deaths of two public servants of years past—former sheriffs David Craig and Denny Long. Both performed the duties of the county’s highest law enforcement office admirably and professionally. Both were quality individuals, both while in public office and in private life.

Ironically, the passing of these two gentlemen within 14 days of each other leaves us without a living former sheriff in Trimble County.

Today’s culture makes it common and popular for young people to idolize pop music legends and/or sports superheroes. Often these “heroes,” when placed on a pedestal have an uncanny tendency to take well-publicized tumbles from those high places when the pressures of public life and media frenzy bring them into bouts with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression or any number of maladies.

An example in recent news is the late Whitney Houston, whose extraordinary, God-given voice and beauty fell victim to the trappings that often go with fame and fortune. This is to take nothing away from the marvelous accomplishments of her career. I for one was saddened by her decline, both personally and professionally.

One of my childhood heroes—also in the news this week—is retired Senator and astronaut John H. Glenn. Glenn is an example of one who used his celebrity as one of America’s original seven astronauts and the first American to orbit the earth (50 years ago this week on Feb. 20, 1962) as a springboard to greater heights with an illustrious career on the national political scene. In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs. Glenn is an example of an outstanding hero for all of us to admire.

I was quite enamored with the early space program, the original seven astronauts—especially the late Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom who was from Mitchell, Ind., less than 50 miles west of Madison.

School children of today may be surprised to learn that when those early space flights occurred in the early to mid-1960s everything in the classrooms stopped. Students and faculty alike were glued to the radio for the latest developments of each flight.
Few classrooms in the 1960s had television sets. Few had radios but usually faculty members brought portable radios from home and left them in the classroom for that purpose. The last of these missions that I recall normal class activity being preempted for was the first Gemini flight with Grissom and John Young in March, 1965. I was in the seventh grade at good old TCHS at the time.

But heroes don’t have to be on the front pages of our newspapers or headlining the national TV news. Heroes are all around us. We live among a wealth of heroes who are disguised as common, aging neighbors—men who fought in the Pacific or in Europe, in the jungles of Southeast Asia, or in the desert sands of the Middle East.

They come in brown uniforms, grey uniforms and blue uniforms in the form of public servants such as members of the sheriff’s department and constable’s offices, the Kentucky State Police, emergency medical services personnel and local firefighters—all of whom have made it their responsibility to face danger and they never know when they will face danger or in what form—on our behalf.

Sheriff Coons shared a story of a woman who visited the sheriff’s office shortly after he was elected to his current position.

“Denny and Howard were showing me around the office and explaining how everything functioned. A lady walked into the office and Denny introduced me to her as the man who would succeed him as sheriff. She looked me up and down from head to toe and said, ‘You’ve got some awful big shoes to fill. I hope you’re up to it!’ I told her I hoped I was too.”

Two of Trimble’s finest have now passed from the current scene with the deaths of Craig and Long. And yes, they leave big shoes to fill as do all of our genuine local pillars of the community whom we admire. Trimble County is a better place because of them and we are much richer for their dedication to their responsibilities as public servants. Or, rather I should say HEROES.