When we think of heroes, it’s easy to think of the big names. We picture a hero looking a certain way, brave and strong (and maybe even with a cape flapping behind him). But often the real heroes are the people we’ve forgotten about — or never even heard of.
It’s for this reason that I’m excited for the upcoming movie The Monuments Men. Based on a true story, the movie depicts the journey of an unlikely group of Allied forces who band together to save and preserve art stolen by Nazis in the midst of WWII. Among other things, The Monuments Men shows that heroes can come from anywhere. That they are among us, and that anyone has the potential to save the day.
1. James Rorimer – Daring Art Preservationist
Rorimer was a notable museum curator and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose career at the museum was interrupted by a rather heroic stint saving art over in Europe in the heat of WWII.
While in the army, Rorimer was tasked to find and preserve significant artwork stolen by the Nazis. He’s been credited for seizing the art collections of both Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels, and will be played by Matt Damon in The Monuments Men.
2. Steve “Saint” Bernard – Bus Driver Hero
In 2012, Steve St. Bernard was driving in Brooklyn when he saw a 7 year-old autistic girl standing atop a three-story high air condition unit. St. Bernard sprung to action and caught the girl, who, as a result, only suffered very minor injuries.
3. Joseph Perlman – McDonald’s Donor
A few months ago, Joseph Perlman turned 25. Instead of celebrating the quarter century with bottles and lavish celebrating, Perlman recruited a few friends, went to the Covenent House in NYC, and spent over $600 on over 250 McChickens and 250 McDoubles to feed hundreds of hungry underprivileged teens in the New York area. He didn’t want it filmed, but heroes will always be recognized.
4. Abdul Haji – Heroism In The Face Of Terror
During last year’s horrific mall shooting in Nairobi, Kenya, Haij arrived at the mall after his brother texted him that he was trapped inside. The son of a former Kenyan Security Minister, he helped provide fire cover for Red Cross workers, which enabled the evacuation of upwards of 1,000 people.
5. Elisabetha Nicopoi Strul – One Brave WWII Seamstress
Ms. Strul was a Romanian seamstress working at a textile factory when she learned of an impending pogrom against the Jews. She proceeded to warn her neighbors and co-workers, and even risked her life to hide and provide for more than 15 of her friends.
In case that’s not heartwarming enough, she later married one of the men she saved.
6. Taryn Davis – The American Widow Project
In 2007, Davis founded the American Widow Project, a non-profit organization that provides peer to peer support to a new generation of military widows grieving over the loss of their loved ones in the United States armed services. A noble support group for a very noble cause.
7. Everyday Civilians – Paying Anonymous Tribute To A War Hero
Last November, hundreds of strangers showed up to honor the late Harold Jellicoe Percival, an English WWII Hero who was never married nor had any children. After the funeral home organizing the service put out a notice in a newspaper, the cause went viral and about 500 ordinary citizens showed up to honor Mr. Percival.
8. Anne Mahlum – Back On My Feet
Anne Mahlum launched Back On My Feet in Philadelphia back in 2007 as a non-profit dedicated to getting those experiencing homelessness “back on their feet,” using the advent of running to improve their lives, gain employment, and live independently.
Back On My Feet was founded in Philadelphia, but has grown massively nationwide.
9. Jeremy Wuitschick – School Bus Savior
In April 2012, an ordinary 7th grader noticed his bus driver was having some sort of seizure. He acted quickly and heroically, saving an entire school bus from potential tragedy.
Proof that heroes can be called upon at anytime, anywhere.
This post brought to you by Sony Picture’s The Monuments Men – directed by and starring George Clooney. Based on a true story, it features a WWII platoon tasked with saving art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. See it in theaters on February 7th.