What do the following people have in common?

Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, Ellen DeGeneres and Tiger Woods.

All achieved fame and fortune for entertaining the world, whether on stage or in sports venues. All were awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by the past two presidents.

The White House website, as quoted by the New York Times, defines the award as “the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Okay, without comment on how the “security or national interests of the United States (or) world peace” benefit from their achievements, I suspect you and I are pretty familiar with their place in American sports or entertainment.

Next question; what do these people have in common?

Kendrick Castillo and Riley Howell.

Drawing a blank? Not surprising.

Their claim to fame was what is known in journalistic circles as a “one day story.”

Each died while subduing campus murderers within the past month, acts of heroism that are credited with saving lives of their classmates.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, was a senior at an 1,800-student STEM school near Denver.

He charged a gunman who, with an accomplice, wounded eight classmates, taking him to the floor and giving several classmates an opportunity to subdue the gunman while the remaining students fled the classroom to safety.

Castillo, described by classmates in a New York Times account as “the first to help when anyone needed it,” lost his life on May 7, just three days before graduation. His was the only fatality in the attack.

One week earlier, on the last day of class, Riley Howell, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was killed while defending his classmates from a campus shooter.

Howell, 21, charged a campus gunman who already had killed one student and wounded four others.

He took down the shooter, ending this attack.

Howell, shot twice in the body and once in the head, was the second and last student killed by the gunman.

Police told his parents that their son’s intervention saved the lives of an unknown number of other students.

In the armed forces, such selfless acts of sacrifice might merit the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration.

In the civilian sector, the nation’s highest recognition is reserved, for the most part, for multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers.

(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He can only hope that the two schools whose student heroes gave their lives in defense of their classmates will find an appropriate way to honor their memories.)


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