The Bayonet

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Students honored for resilience, heroism

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When people talk about real-life heroes, they’re often referring to Soldiers or emergency personnel like firefighters and police, but a hero can be anyone, said Kevin Clarke, Fort Benning chief of police, addressing a crowd of more than 500 students Wednesday at Stowers Elementary School.

“What I want you to all understand is that there are heroes among us who do great things every day,” he said. “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re everywhere. As police we see them all the time, and we’re here today to do a better job at recognizing them.”

The Directorate of Emergency Services officers helped lead Wednesday’s ceremony to honor two students whose quick thinking and resourcefulness helped save others from danger. Kindergartener Taylor Pierce called 911 after her mother had fallen down the stairs; fifth-grader Alexus Caldwell pulled a preschooler out of harm’s way when he was about to dart into traffic. Both are examples of not only heroism but resilience, Clarke said.

“I think resilience crosses the boundaries between Soldiers and their Families because they all experience challenges,” he said. “They have to be strong. Part of having a healthy mind and body is going out there and helping people, not just helping themselves.”

It’s that kind of character that will make them more resilient as kids and grow into confident adults, Clarke said.

“What we’re teaching kids is positive behaviors are rewarded,” he said.

Alexus and Taylor were rewarded Wednesday with a commander’s coin from the garrison commander, a service coin from DES, a commemorative medal to wear around their necks and a yard sign reading “Home of a Star Stallion, Stowers Elementary.”

Their stories

Taylor’s opportunity for heroism came on a Sunday afternoon at home. Her mother, Jamielea Pierce, fell down the stairs and couldn’t call for help — but her 5-year-old daughter knew what to do.

“Taylor was able to get to a phone, call our 911 center and provide all the information that our station needed in order to respond,” said Lt. Michael Snow, one of the responders in the Sept. 16 incident. “She knew her address. She told us her mother had fallen down the stairs within their home and was unable to move. She also continued to help us when we arrived.”

When the responders arrived, Taylor explained that she had made the emergency call and helped corral the family Labrador so police could reach her mother. The certificate of recognition she received from DES honored her for “bravery and composure” in a difficult situation.

“My mom helped me,” Taylor said. “She taught me to learn the street number. I was happy to help her, too.”

Less than two weeks later, another ordinary situation turned into an opportunity for extraordinary bravery. It was after school Sept. 26, and parents were busy picking up their kids from Stowers Elementary.

“I was with my friends and then I saw a kid (about) to cross the road,” Alexus said. “He didn’t need to because he could’ve gotten hurt. And then I just stopped him.”

The child in question was a preschooler about to rush into traffic. Alexus, 11, is the oldest of three children.

“She saw the car approaching and just as the small preschooler was about to run out into the street, she was able to grab him around the waist and prevented him from being hurt — or worse,” said Stowers principal Scott Sterry, who presented her the certificate.

The ceremony, which the entire school attended, was designed to celebrate the “incredible” actions of Alexus and Taylor, Sterry said, and inspire other students to similar bravery, should the occasion call for it.

“When we celebrate acts like (these), I think it gives them a new perspective on what’s really good in people,” he said. “Everyone in the room has inside of them a hero that can be unleashed at any time. I think everyone has the character inside that wants to do something important, that wants to makes a difference, and when the opportunity shows itself I think most people would demonstrate it. They have that capability.”

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