By DAN WHITTLE
Heroes, I've known a few.
Not the famous ones, such as Jackie Robinson, a true-life hero with the courage of a lion in breaking the racial barrier of Major League baseball in the 1940s and '50s.
I'm talking everyday, walking-around heroes that you meet on the side walk, at your favorite restaurant or at the church of your choice.
I'm talking about "common folks," who, through their efforts, raise the quality of life for others.
There's no age limit in my list of heroes.
Drum roll please!!
Meet "Hero #1": Jon Beckett Nelson, age 3, a little guy, who despite being severely injured at age 6 months while in the care of a baby-sitter, faces life each day with the gusto of a warrior.
Jon Beckett gets my most courageous award, since he eagerly assaults his therapy and health issues with glee and joy, despite obvious pain and physical limitations.
You may have heard of Beckett, since he's been the face and poster child for recent fund-raising events at Murfreesboro-based, non-profit Special Kids. Never mind that Beckett is the great grandson of wife Pat and I, he's an awesome fighter who refuses to give up when circumstances appear very bleak.
And you're likely to be hearing more about Beckett in area media in the near future, since Trains, Lanes and Automobile bowling alley professionals Jimmy Patrick and Mike Sealy II are generously organizing a fund-raising tournament/social the evening of July 12, to help Beckett's family with non-insurance covered medical needs. Donations can be made at 1st Bank to the Jon Beckett Nelson Benefit Fund, or taken by WGNS Radio in Murfreesboro in care of Truman Jones, the Murfreesboro Post newspaper office or the Cannon Courier office in Woodbury.
Meet "Hero #2": Roger Turney has gone through life with a winning smile and servant attitude for his family, church, fellow man and community.
He's served multiple decades as the unsalaried mayor of Auburntown, Cannon County's second-largest incorporated community. More than that, as a retired principal at Auburntown School, the educator touched more children's lives positively likely than any one person in Auburntown history.
He's done the above, and so much more than can be listed in this forum, despite going through life with one arm.
Meet "Hero #3": Murfreesboro's Fayne Haynes escaped being a World War II prisoner-of-war to the Germans by falling out of a forced march, and sliding under a roadside cemetery's tombstone.
He had been captured as an artillery gunner, and survived lice infestation, starvation and untreated wounds and other tortures while in German captivity.
Despite advancing age now, Mr. Haynes continues being a hero as he tirelessly promotes American patriotism and community service as an example for younger folks to observe.
Meet "Hero #4": Hitler was a dog, a real good farm dog.
Not the Hitler of German Jew-killing war crimes infamy. For that mad-man does not merit being compared to a dog, any dog.
Daddy Whittle named our farm dog "Hitler" shortly after WW II, saying the half-bulldog/German shepherd canine would have to be tough to go through life with the name Hitler.
And Hitler was tough, as demonstrated the day Daddy was attacked by an enraged, frothing-at-the-mouth boar hog in our farm's barn lot. Hitler, upon hearing Daddy's screams for help, bolted from my side, when I was maybe 3-years-old, and cleared a fence head-high to a grown man with such force that it knocked the hog off my father there on the ground. The dog's courageous act literally saved the life of my father.
Meet "Hero #5": Birding enthusiast Ray Goad paid his way through Vanderbilt University. He didn't pay for his college by mere part-time work. As a Maury County farm boy in the 1940s, Ray financed his college education by plowing behind mules, and trapping, and then skinning, stretching and curing polecat hides for sale.
"A pretty polecat hide in that era brought $1.25, a lot of money in those tough post-Great Depression days," Ray assessed.
The present-day Rutherford County resident believed in education, to the point he determinedly got his lessons despite often being asked to leave the premises by his rural one-room school teacher because of the polecat smell that permeated his clothes.
"When the Warm Morning coal stove got really hot, well, the polecat smell on my clothes would permeate the entire school," Ray recalls.
It was a pleasure to hear Ray share his life's story at a recent meeting of the Woodbury-based Middle Tennessee Mule Skinner's meeting.