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Band of Brothers Loses One

Guarnere in the 1940s and Hughes in "Band of Brothers" (HBO)

Guarnere in the 1940s and Hughes in “Band of Brothers” (HBO)

One of my favorite television mini-series—and arguably one of the best in the history of cable television—was HBO’s Band of Brothers. The series followed the members of Easy Company—part of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division—as they fought through Europe during World War II.

And in terms of war-related drama and action, it simply doesn’t get any better.

Unfortunately, one of the “brothers” has passed away. SSgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere—portrayed on-screen by actor Frank John Hughes—died of a ruptured aneurism on Saturday night. He was 90 years old.

Guarnere and Hughes finally meet (HBO)

Guarnere and Hughes finally meet (HBO)

“He lived a good life,” Guarnere’s son said the morning after his death. “He traveled a lot [and] pretty much did everything he could have done.”

One of those things was serving our great nation and even losing a leg while trying to save one of his battlefield comrades. The best word to describe Guarnere—and I know of no one who might dispute this—is hero. And that is exactly what the world lost this weekend.

Rest in peace, Wild Bill. And thanks for everything…

Death of a Deacon

Jones and the Fearsome Foursome bring the pain (courtesy of Neil Leifer/SI)

Just one day after learning that Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly had been diagnosed with cancer of the upper jaw, the National Football League received even more bad news.

Deacon Jones—the Hall of Fame defensive end credited with coining the phrase “quarterback sack”—died Monday evening in his Southern California home from natural causes. He was 74 years old.

Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” Jones was arguably one of the best defensive players in NFL history. He entered the league in 1961 and was immediately drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. Together with Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy, Jones helped form one of the scariest defensive lines the game has ever seen: the infamous Fearsome Foursome.

Jones would later play for the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, not that it mattered much in terms of his game play. In his 14 NFL seasons, Jones won All-Pro honors for five consecutive years (1965-1969); went to seven straight Pro Bowls (1964-1970) and another in 1972; was named AP’s Defensive Player of the Week four times; missed only 6 of 196 regular season games; revolutionized the defensive end position; patented the head slap move as a pass rusher; and accumulated 194.5 sacks over his career, placing him at third on the all-time sack list.

In other words, he was a beast. And a lot of good offensive players took a beating at his capable hands.

Deacon Jones in the Hall of Fame (courtesy of ESPN)

“His eyes were as red as fire, and after he took his stance, he was pawing his leg in the dirt like a bull,” said former Dallas Cowboy Rayfield Wright, who first faced off against Jones in 1969. “As an offensive lineman, you’re taught only to hear the quarterback’s voice. Nothing else. I’m listening in case there’s an audible, and in the pause between ‘Huts!’ I hear a deep, heavy voice say, ‘Does yo’ mama know you’re out here?’ It was Deacon Jones.”

Jones was undoubtedly as fearsome as they come, and his impact could be felt among NFL owners and managers, as well.

“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said of the defensive legend. “Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him.”

Actually, Bruce, Deacon Jones is an inspiration even to those who didn’t know him. And he will be for years to come.

Rest in peace, Deacon.

Beauty and the Beast

Klum in SI way back in 2002 (courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Easter Sunday was celebrated by people all over the world—at least I think it was—but there were some who nearly lost their lives on this fateful day. More specifically, there were people who would have drowned had it not been for the swift action of fellow humans and, in one case, a courageous canine.

It truly was beauty and the beast to the rescue.

Beauty came in the form of supermodel and Project Runway host Heidi Klum, arguably one of the sexiest women around and by far one of my favorite Sports Illustrated swimsuit models of all time.

On Sunday, Klum, her family and several nannies were enjoying their Hawaiian beach vacation when a riptide suddenly pulled her 7-year-old son Henry out with the current. Even the nannies got caught up in the strong waves.

With no consideration for their own safety, 39-year-old Klum and her bodyguard boyfriend, Martin Kirsten, rushed into the sea to rescue their peeps.

“We were pulled into the ocean by a big wave,” she told reporters later. “Like any mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water. Thankfully, Henry is a strong swimmer and was able to swim back to land and we were able to get everyone else out safely.”

Thankfully, Henry and his nannies are fine and no one suffered any major injuries. And I know one thing for certain.

He couldn’t ask for a better mother. Nice work, Heidi and Martin!

The Beast in my title doesn’t accurately describe this next hero, who seems more like an angel than an animal. His name is Rocky and he’s an 8-year-old husky-Lab mix.

And on Easter Sunday—along with his owner, Adam Shaw—Rocky played the part of saviour for two young girls.

The incident occurred in Edmonton, Alberta, as 9-year-old Samara and her 10-year-old sister Krymzen were sledding in a park near the Saskatchewan River. At one point, their toboggan came to rest on a sheet of ice extending from the river bank. And sadly, the ice wasn’t very thick.

Shaw and Rocky were walking over a nearby bridge when they suddenly heard the girls screaming. Shaw investigated, saw one of the girls in the icy water—with her sister struggling to pull her out—and immediately rushed to help. By the time he and Rocky got there, though, both of the girls were in the water.

Shaw managed to pull Krymzen from the icy river, but the current grabbed hold of Samara and started carrying her downstream. Shaw tried to reach her and even tossed Rocky’s leash to her, but he just couldn’t get there. And with each passing second, Samara was getting further and further away.

Even worse, the ice under Shaw and Rocky gave way and they both ended up in the freezing river, too. Luckily, Shaw was able to push Rocky back onto the shore and to use his pet to help pull himself to safety.

Of course, Samara was still drifting away. And when Shaw asked if she could swim, she told him that she couldn’t feel her arms and legs.


Shaw and Rocky saved the day (courtesy of Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal)

Time was running out. It was time for Shaw to take more desperate measures, so he turned to Rocky for help.

“I put the leash around Rocky and pushed him to get in the water and I told her if she could get [hold] of his leash, we could get her back to the ice,” Shaw recounted later. “He jumped in right beside her.”

With Rocky so close, Samara was finally able to get a grip on his leash and hung on for dear life as this brave, selfless animal swam back to shore and his owner. Once they were close enough, Shaw was able to pull them both to safety.

Emergency workers arrived a short time later and transported the girls to a local hospital for treatment. And according to the latest reports, they are both expected to be fine.

“These two young ladies are very, very fortunate that such a family happened along and were able to intervene,” Fire Chief Ken Block said of the daring rescue.

And Block didn’t stop there. This past Monday, he honored Shaw and Rocky at his fire station, rewarding Shaw with a fireman’s hat and Rocky with the best reward he could ever want: a huge rawhide bone.

What an amazing animal! And his owner’s pretty amazing, too!

Easter Sunday could have become a day of tragedy and despair for the families mentioned here—one they would be forced to relive every single year. Thanks to these incredible heroes, though—from different species, I might add—Easter will be cause for even more celebrations to come.

I often end posts with one of my favorite catch phrases: Be good to each other. Of course, nothing is better than seeing it in action, especially when non-humans take up the cause!

Honor Thy Parent

Celia and her father (courtesy of Hispanically Speaking News)

I learned the importance of respecting my elders at a very young age. And despite their occasional refusal to indulge my every whim or to shower me with gifts, there were no adults I respected more—or loved more—than my parents. I can only hope that most kids feel the same way.

Actually, I know of at least one other who definitely does. Her name is Celia and she is a 9-year-old girl from Los Angeles County in California. And on Sunday night, the love and respect she has for her father came shining through.

The pair was returning from a friend’s house and driving down the darkened Sierra Highway near Acton around 1 a.m. For whatever reason—perhaps due to alcohol—Celia’s father never saw the sharp curve ahead of them. Their Ford Escape careened off the road, rolled several times down a 200-foot embankment and came to rest upside down in the ravine below.

While her father lay unconscious, his young daughter got herself loose and crawled out of the wreck. She smelled gasoline and—amazingly, I might add—knew to turn off the engine before going for help. And her task wasn’t an easy one, either. The desert at night can get pitch black and given the terrain, you just never know where that next step will take you.

Just ask California Highway Patrol Sergeant Tom Lackey, a real-life CHiP who knows the area well.

“She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment,” he later said of the brave young lady. “It’s very black out there, very dark. It’s very steep and it’s brushy and there’s also coyotes in the background.”

Yikes! I forgot about coyotes!

Eventually, Celia saw a light in the distance and started for it. She discovered a home but when she knocked, no one answered. So she made her way back to the crash, checked on her father and resorted to Plan B: climbing up the embankment to the road above her.

Celia is expected to make a full recovery (courtesy of CBS/KCAL-TV)

A treacherous trip later, Celia made it and headed for the only other light she could see, which was coming from a rail station more than a mile away. Once there, she was able to flag someone down who immediately contacted the authorities. By the time they reached the scene of the accident, though, it was too late.

The girl’s father, Alejandro Renteria, was dead. He was 35 years old.

The good news is that this incredible child suffered only minor cuts and bruises and should be fine—physically, at least. She will still have to come to terms with the loss of her father—thankfully, she is already surrounded by family and friends—but at least she can take comfort in knowing that because of her efforts, he at least had a chance of survival.

And even though he isn’t here any more, there can be little doubt that he would be extremely proud of his daughter. Who wouldn’t be?

Celebrities do good

Russell Brand Arthur Premier

Celebrities get a bad rap.

It doesn’t help that the news media always seems to focus on the most annoying of the bunch.

Lindsay Lohan gets hammered and crashes her car into a telephone pole.

Kim Kardashian tweets a new bikini shot of herself and accidentally reveals a nipple.

Justin Bieber prefers Pepsi to Coke and blondes to brunettes.

Who the hell cares?

Fortunately, not all celebrities are cut from the same cloth. Some are even cooler and more down-to-earth in reality than they are in film or television or pop culture. Take Russell Brand, for instance.

Two weeks ago, Brand encountered a shirtless, homeless man in Los Angeles, gave him a shirt and some water, and even drove him to an Alcoholics Anonymous class. This was quite a meaningful gesture considering Brand himself is a recovering alcoholic and frequent AA attendee.

But he didn’t stop there.

The Huffington Post just reported that yesterday, Brand was seen escorting a group of displaced people to breakfast near his west Hollywood home. He could have tossed them a few bucks or even called the police to remove them from his property, but instead Brand opted to feed them.

I love it when celebrities give something back or do something heroic for strangers. And Russell Brand isn’t the only “superstar” with such a good heart.

Tom Cruise December 2008

When he isn’t jumping on couches, practicing Scientology or breaking up with Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise plays the role of real-life hero. He once rescued two car accident victims on an L.A. freeway and waited with them until help arrived. Then there was the time Cruise saved two young boys who got pinned against the wall at one of his movie premieres.

No matter where he is or what he’s doing, Tom Cruise is always ready to spring into action to help his fellow man. I think we can let him slide on the whole Scientology thing, can’t we?

Sean, All the King's Men Premiere

Sean Penn is another celebrity hero, despite being labeled as a “bad boy” early in his career. Regardless of the natural disaster, Penn finds a way to get involved and make a difference. He used a small boat to rescue hundreds of people after Hurricane Katrina. And in 2010, Penn traveled to Haiti to aid in the recovery of earthquake victims.

Bad boy, my ass. Sounds like a very good boy to me.

English: Harrison Ford at the Cannes film fest...

Harrison Ford was also in Haiti, only he was flying a helicopter and airlifting victims to safety. I always heard that my childhood idol, the man behind Han Solo and Indiana Jones, was kind of an ass in reality. A friend of mine once claimed that he witnessed Ford behaving badly in public, so I worried he might be a self-centered, arrogant jerk.

Granted, he might be. But Ford is also a hero, and not just for the Haiti thing. In the past, he has rescued stranded hikers and missing Boy Scouts.

If he wants to be an ass, so be it. I think he’s earned the right.

Celebrities get a bad rap. But if all celebs were like the ones mentioned here, I bet that would change really quickly.

Russell, Tom, Sean and Harrison… I salute you.


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