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2016 Heroes of the Heartland Essay Winners

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My grandparents have been serving with the American Red Cross for over 12 years!

For the second year, 5th through 8th graders from central Iowa were invited to write about their heroes for our Heroes of the Heartland essay contest. Students wrote essays describing their heroes, which range from teachers to grandparents to neighbors. 

The six winners are from school districts within the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross. The winners are invited to attend the annual Heroes of the Heartland breakfast and receive checks for $100.

Audrey Troutman, 4th Grade, Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary, Indianola

Hero: Robert Troutman (Grandpa)

My hero is not just my hero because I am related; he’s a real life hero who I am proud to call my grandpa. When my grandpa was 18-years-old he went to Vietnam. He traveled to lots of places and saw more than what any 18 years old should.

My grandpa shared lots of memories with my grandma, dad and my dad’s siblings but not with his grandchildren. When I was at my grandparents’ house over Christmas break, my dad found a box full of stuff my grandpa kept from Vietnam. The box was filled with my grandpa’s uniform, pictures from Vietnam, newspaper clippings and a number of metals. 

When my grandpa saw all of his grandkids looking through all of his things from the war, he shared with us how he was awarded a Purple Heart and the Sliver Star.

My grandpa’s platoon was under attack. He saw a fellow soldier get hurt and fall to the ground. My grandpa crawled out of a bunker and was pulling his friend back to safety when my grandpa was shot across his chest and into his left arm. He was still able to pull the wounded soldier to safety but my grandpa was sent to a hospital.

His chest and his left elbow needed to be repaired and he had many surgeries to fix everything. After several months in the hospital, my grandpa was discharged from the military and was awarded but the Purple Heart and the Sliver Star for his acts of bravery. 

Here is the definition of a Purple Heart, “Awarded for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States.”

Here is the definition of a Silver Star, “The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration for valor and gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.”

It’s very hard to believe what my grandpa went through. To me he’s just goofy old grandpa that teases me every time I see him. Hearing all of his stories at Christmas made me realize how much of a hero he really is. 

Madi Hoffman, 4th Grade, Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary, Indianola

Hero: Jo Mort (Teacher)

I will send you this letter because I want to tell you about my teacher Mrs. Mort. She always encourages that I can do better. Even when I know I can do better. Even when I know I can do better, because she knows we can make good choices. And be respectful. She’s always inspiring and kind. She is only trying to help us reach our goals. She cares about each one of us from head to toe!

Mrs. Mort is a unique teacher she has a lot of different methods of teaching. That is because she knows we all learn skills differently. She helps me find ways that math is easier for me. She is a hero to me for more than just being my teacher, but for allowing me to be creative and just be me.

Elise Juhl, 8th Grade, Harlan Community School

Hero: Kelly Juhl (Uncle)

Being a hero can be an instant decision, strong instinct, or a saving action. Normal people such as Kelly Juhl, my uncle, can become a hero with just one life-saving choice. Grievous incidents occur every minute. These events alter the lives of family, friends, and other that were involved in the events that transpired. Ordinary people become heroes instantaneously because of their outstanding courage, extreme bravery, and indescribable selflessness.

Standard days have the possibility to turn haunting, good or bad. It was a usual day for Holly Borkowski, a guidance counselor at Harlan Community High School, which would soon become one the most unforgettable days of her life. Before anyone knew what was happening she couldn’t breathe, speak, or swallow. After the first attempt at the Heimlich failed from a bystander, the athletic director ran for help.  Kelly Juhl is a woods teacher at the same school as Holly Borkowski, as well as a boys basketball coach. Little did Kelly know that he would save not only a fellow teacher but a mother as well. It was a small act that saved a family from the loss of a marvelous mother. He immediately raced from his room and began the Heimlich. One swift decision of Kelly saved a woman’s life and made her forever grateful to him.  Though he was acting to save her life, he understood that this was something he hoped anyone would do for him just as he was to her. Not only did he save someone’s life, but he also follows and applies the Cyclone Way.  He is an excellent example to everyone, especially his students. Acts of pure assistance make my uncle, Kelly Juhl, an everyday her.

Alana Ploen, 8th Grade, Harlan Community School

Hero: Grandparents 

What’s a hero? Well, some may say doctors or caretakers when asked this particular question. Another response could be friends or someone they idolize. These people are chosen because of how they are respected and treated by others. When you were a child did you ever think you would become a celebrity?  In my opinion, yes I used to dream about big houses and how happy we will be. That really isn’t the case people like celebrities and friends don’t fit into criteria of what a hero really is. 

What really defines a true hero? The definition of a hero is described on as “a person who, in my opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed the heroic act as is regarded as a model or ideal.” My definition of a hero is a person who is brave and caring enough to put others first. A real hero doesn’t care what they get out of helping somebody in need; they do it just because they are devoted to helping others.

There is an abundant of reasons why people choose a variety of people that inspires them.  My very own heroes are my grandparents. They have been serving with the American Red Cross for over 12 years. They continue helping out with a variety of disasters that may leave people without anything. When seeing them in action, along with all of the American Red Cross workers, it puts joy into many people’s hearts that somebody does care. The American Red Cross gives people joy, comfort, and hope.

I have never seen more care and helpfulness than the American Red Cross provides. Growing up with my grandparents apart of American Red Cross has changed my life so much. In the past, I’ve helped out with the events that the American Red Cross has planned.  This opportunity has made me realize how lucky we are to have an organization like the American Red Cross. That is why I choose my grandparents as my heroes. I would love to thank the American Red Cross for everything they have done serving millions all over the world!

Hero Nominator: Niall Mahoney, 8th Grade, Harlan Community School

Hero: Mike Colby (Neighbor)

Have you ever asked yourself, who is your hero? Maybe it’s a friend or relative. It didn’t take me long to realize mine. My hero is my neighbor Mike Colby. Although he moved away, the impact he had left me with ne will stay forever. What he did may have been small, but it left a huge inspiration imprinted in a young nine year old boy’s brain.

I was small, ambitious young man at the time. Now my neighbor Mike, who also was very good at building things, offered to help me construct the car I proposed to build. He was a little surprised by what I had asked him to help me with. I said, “One that would be big enough so I could sit in and ride down the street.”

It was a task but Mike and I put our skills to task. Since I was too young, Mike operated the power tools so we screw the wood together. That was the easiest part. Now once we got done with the frame, it was just big enough that I could sit comfortably in it. The tires were so hard to find. We searched the town dump, the scrap yard, basically anywhere there were potential tires. We searched for days and days having no luck anywhere.

However, the answer was just across the street attached to a broken lawnmower. I realized my neighbors across the street drag out a very rusty lawnmower. I asked him what he was doing with it and he said he was going to dismantle the old piece of junk and use it for scrap parts.

We asked if we could get the tires off the lawnmower and he said yes. Finally, we secured the tires on the car, one coat of blue spray paint and a dragon license plate was all it needed to finish it off. Now it didn’t have a steering wheel, which was kind of bad, but I wasn’t planning on going anywhere with it.

My hero may have done something small for me, but he helped kick start what I loved to do.  I would have never finished the car without the help and guidance from my neighbor who just so generously guided me every step of the way. It was great to do a big project and now I am even thinking about becoming an architect. Thank you, Mike.

Megan Reutter, 7th Grade, Boone Middle School 

Hero: Cory (Dad)

I love my family and it’s hard to choose even one of them to be my hero. They all have had a huge impact on my life in one way or another. If I had to choose a family member, I would choose my dad.  My dad has supported me with pretty much everything I joined or quit. He helps me get better at softball and if I make a mistake he helps me right back up again.

I have no idea what my life would be like without my dad. My parents are divorced and it’s really hard to go back and forth from each home. My dad is the one who has convinced me to do softball.  He comes to almost all of my school sports games and my traveling team games. My dad even came to my choir contest (which I had a solo in.) My dad videotaped me singing my solo so I can look back at it in the future.

My dad also is making me a portfolio for my kids to look at. He’s doing that by taking all my awards that I get in school for sports, choir, and other special activities. My dad is a very responsible father with a good heart.

When we get home from school he always asks my family members and I, how our days were.  I always reply with good but my sister will talk for hours about her day. When he asks those questions I can tell he really cares, he’s not one of those dads who boss their kids around nonstop.

My dad loves us with all of his heart. He would do anything for us, no matter the risk. My dad shows his love by complimenting us or taking us out to eat or even buying us stuff that we need on a daily basis. I love my dad so much and I want all of you guys to know how important he is to me. My dad is my hero and forever will be!