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April 19, 2013

KNISELY: From chaos, a hero emerges

Carlos Arredondo is a man who could have easily lost love for his fellow man. He lost a son in Iraq in 2004. Then in 2011, his only other son committed suicide because he couldn’t escape the depression of his brother’s death.

No one would blame Arredondo for staying lost in an abyss of fear and anger. Losing two sons in such tragic ways is too much for any one man to handle.

But Arredondo rose above the hurt and pain and chose to devote his life to bringing peace to the world. He quit his full-time job because he believed his purpose was to honor the fallen and protest the war that killed his son.

“As long as there are Marines fighting and dying in Iraq,” he told The New York Times in 2007, “I’m going to share my mourning with the American people.”

But because of Arredondo, there’s one less family in America mourning the loss of a son.

You may think you’ve never heard of Arredondo, but you’ve likely seen his image more than once this past week.

In what’s become an iconic photo of the Boston bombings, Associated Press photographer Charles Krupa caught Arrendondo in the act of saving 27-year-old Jeff Bauman. Many are dubbing Arredondo as “The Hero in the Cowboy Hat.” He is seen running alongside Bauman’s wheelchair, holding the victim’s severed artery closed with his bare hands. Both of Bauman’s legs were blown off from the knee down.

Arredondo was a spectator at the Boston Marathon, handing out American flags and supporting the “Tough Ruckers,” a group of military members who run in full military gear to honor fallen soldiers.

He was near the finish line to greet runners of two organizations that honor his two dead sons.

He happened to be near the detonation zone when the first bomb went off.

Arredondo didn’t run away. He ran straight for the blast zone. You can see him in the thick of the action in a Boston Globe video posted online. He helped push aside the fencing and barricades to get to Bauman.

He used the clothes off his back to keep Bauman from bleeding out.

Arredondo helped one man that day, staying with Bauman through it all. Bauman awoke in a hospital on Tuesday, owing his life to the Hero in the Cowboy Hat.

I can’t imagine what was going through Arredondo’s head that day, but I have to believe his sons were front and center. He couldn’t save his sons’ lives, but on Monday, he saved someone else’s. He became a hero for the nation his son died for. He also became my personal hero.

There are some who will dismiss Arredondo as a crazed father gone off the deep end of mourning.

As for me, I long to live in a world with more Arredondos.

Misty Knisely is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune.

Reach her at 574-732-5155 or at misty.knisely@pharostribune.com

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