Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A Hero Lost
For example, I don't consider it heroic just because you were a casualty of war — you got injured, you got a purple heart, so you're a hero? You got captured by the enemy and later released — does that make you a hero? No, I don't accept that. It might mean that you were unlucky or maybe even stupid, but it doesn't automatically elevate you to hero status. It takes more than that to become a hero.
Now, if you willingly make a decision that puts you in extraordinary risk — you go out on a limb to save someone else — whether or not you get injured, captured, or killed, you're a hero. My definition. Your mileage may vary.
Well, a true hero died last Monday night. His name was David Vanbuskirk, a 36-year-old search and rescue officer and member of the Las Vegas police department.
Vanbuskirk had been on the search and rescue team for 6 years and had performed dozens of rescues similar to the one that killed him.
It was a helicopter rescue of a lone stranded hiker who was perched on a rocky ledge. The man had hiked into a restricted area where there were signs warning hikers to stay out or face fines. He managed to get himself stuck on the craggy cliff. At this point in the investigation, it's unclear how the stranded man contacted authorities, but somehow he did and Vanbuskirk's team responded.
After being lowered from the helicopter, Vanbuskirk attached a harness to the stranded man then signaled to hoist them both up. Somehow, Vanbuskirk became detached from the line in midair and fell to his death. The hiker was safely rescued.
David Vanbuskirk made a conscious decision to engage in a risky attempt to save the life of another person. In my book, he was a hero even if it hadn't cost his life. All those times before when he put himself in danger to save other people — that's what made him, and those like him, a hero.
Unfortunately, sometimes heros end up losing their life while trying to save someone else. This was one of those times.
While I take this opportunity to honor the life of David Vanbuskirk, let me emphasize the fact that when you get yourself in trouble and need the help of search and rescue personnel, you put their lives in danger. Sometimes that happens quite innocently, and the SAR folks are willing to help pull you out of the situation. But if you do something stupid, like hiking into places that are posted to keep you out, then you deserve to feel the weight of your decision. You bear some moral responsibility.
Think about that.