Since he’d never gone to war, 75-year-old veteran James Vernon never got the chance to put the combat skills he’d learned in the Army to the test.
But 50 years after the fact, that training remained fresh and came back to him when it really counted. Two years back, a 19-year-old man stormed into the Morton Public Library wielding two hunting knives and threatening to kill all 16 children inside. Luckily, James was there that day.
He was leading a chess club meeting of more than a dozen home-schooled children between the ages of seven and 13.
Mid-meeting, though, Dustin Brown came into the Illinois library yelling that he planned to “kill some people.”
“I didn’t believe it was happening until after a few seconds,” James said. Then, he suddenly “realized I had to do something.”
James tried to talk to the attacker, distracting him long enough for most of the children to escape to safety. He remembered motioning for them to run out the door, “and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits.”
Then, Dustin lunged at James.
During the ensuing scuffle, the vet suffered serious injuries including two cut arteries and a sliced tendon. Still, he flashed back to the knife-fight training he’d learned in the Army and managed to disarm the attacker. Dustin was later sentenced to 32 years.
We’re all thankful that James just happened to be at the library that day, and that he was able to tap into that long-ago training to help ward off what could easily have been a mass casualty situation.
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