We are surrounded by heroes. Firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and military personnel all classify under the broad heading of “hero.” We especially appreciate heroes who save many lives. While we rightly honor heroes we know, some of the world’s most amazing heroes are unknown to us.
Last week I was visiting one of our church members at the Fairmont Rehabilitation facility across from Howard Regional Health System. I remember when that facility housed Manor Care, and, for many years before that, the Americana Nursing Home. As I was contemplating how times had changed, my thoughts were interrupted by the noisy, whirring blades of a helicopter landing on the hospital’s roof. Another patient would be transported to Indianapolis!
Helicopters have saved many lives, but not only in the civilian sector. The other day, I had turned the television remote to Me-TV. The wife and I watched reruns of “The Green Hornet” and were overjoyed to be reunited with an old Chicago icon, Svengoolie. Sven introduced an old Frankenstein movie (was it “Son of Frankenstein”?). We didn’t watch the movie, but we loved the old horror-comedian.
A day or two later I turned on the TV (we go for days sometimes without watching programs) and “M*A*S*H” happened to be on. The wife and I really never cared for “M*A*S*H” (sorry, folks), so we turned to the Food Network. Yet the thought came to my mind once again: “I wonder how many lives helicopters have saved – especially in the military.” Between civilian and military rescues, I would guess hundreds of thousands.
Who invented this flying insect-like transport? None other than Igor Sikorsky! After immigrating to the United States from Russia in 1919, Sikorsky founded the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in 1923. According to Wikipedia: “In 1939 Sikorsky designed and flew the … first viable American helicopter, which pioneered the rotor configuration used by most helicopters today.” Incidentally, the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is still going strong!
We salute an inventor who is also a hero. Thanks, Igor (maybe I should have watched that Frankenstein movie after all)!
Perhaps an even greater hero is a man who is estimated to have saved 1 billion lives! No, Igor did not put the wrong brain in my head – I am on the level. A man by the name of Norman Borlaug may have saved more lives than any mortal man. Borlaug died in 2009, yet Iowa residents celebrated what would have been his 98th birthday last week.
How did this man save 1 billion lives? By preventing 1 billion people from dying of starvation. According to the Good News Network, “During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties [of wheat] combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply … Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa.”
There are different kinds of heroes. Among them include these three as defined by Webster, “an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, one who shows great courage.”
I do not know whether Sikorsky or Borlaug proved to be great warriors, nor do I know if they exercised great courage through their research and development. Come to think of it, the endurance to stick with their projects might be a form of courage. Either way, they certainly fit that middle definition; we can admire them for their achievements and noble qualities. Well done! We salute you!
• Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.