The Awesome Power Of Kindness

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Perry's Blog | 0 comments

By Perry Smith

Brett Swansiger, an Army veteran and a good friend of my son, McCoy, spends a great deal of time in airplanes as he carries out his duties as an executive for a pharmaceutical company. As a platinum frequent flyer, he gets upgraded to first class on most of his trips. When a soldier in uniform walks down the aisle towards the coach section, Brett grabs him and offers to trade seats. On one recent occasion, there were seven soldiers on the flight. Brett picked out the youngest soldier and gave him his first class seat. Other passengers in first class noticed this act of kindness and also gave up their first class seats. All seven soldiers flew in first class that day. Kindness begetting kindness.

It has been my great privilege to know a number of Medal of Honor recipients and recipients of the Carnegie Medal. They should be saluted for their courage but they should also be recognized for their acts of kindness. In this troubled world, it is important to realize that everyone is capable of altruistic, caring actions when they observe people who are hurting, in need of help or hoping for a pat on the back.

An eighty-one-year-old woman from Shreveport, Louisiana was sitting on her porch when she witnessed a car plunge into a lake. Mrs. Kelley climbed over a fence, dove into the water and rescued the driver who had gone under the water three times. When asked why she did that she said, “My husband was too old and feeble; he couldn’t get over the fence.” Mrs. Kelley earned the Carnegie Medal that day. She is the oldest woman to earn this medal, which is the highest award for civilian heroism. The youngest was seven. When a fire raged through her house, she raced up the stairs and saved her younger brother.

Roger Donlon earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam. Before speaking to some small children in Los Angeles, the teachers asked Roger to be sure to give Robert a chance to ask a question. After his short but inspiring talk, Roger shifted to a question and answer period. When it was Robert’s time to pose a question he asked Roger if he could touch his medal. Roger got down on his knees and Robert, who is blind, held the medal as Roger explained each symbol on the ribbon and on the medal. Then this little six year old blind boy gave Roger a big hug. The teachers were amazed. Robert had been abused and had never shown signs of affection towards any adult. Yet on this magic day, this small child realized that he had just met someone he could trust.

Sergeant First Class Sammy Davis also earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam. In the past forty-three years he has spent much of his life speaking to school children. His fundamental message: never give up, no matter how tough the situation. When he commences his talk, Sammy takes the Medal from around his neck and hands it to a student in the front row. He asks that the medal be passed around throughout the entire audience. Since 1968 he has spoken to nearly two million students. In almost all cases, he pays his own travel and lodging expenses. He feels it is his duty to answer the many invitations he receives. Sitting in an auditorium and watching and listening to this kind, heroic and humble man makes my heart sing. My hope is that it has the same impact on the girls and boys who have just heard his message and touched his Medal.

Happily, the kindness of others can be reinforced. For six years, Augustan Doug Hastings has arranged for veterans to get free bus trips to Washington, DC, to view our national monuments. He gives top priority to World War II veterans who might never get a chance to see the World War II memorial. A front-page article in the Chronicle on August 31st led to one hundred and thirty inquiries. Hence, Doug needs financial help. You can support his efforts by sending a check made out to Vets to Washington Project”and send it to 3709 Fairington Drive, Hephzibah, GA 30815. For more information please visit his website.–

Major General Perry Smith USAF (ret.) is the president of the board of trustees of the Augusta Museum of History. His email address is

[This column appeared in the Augusta Chronicle on Sept. 10, 2011]

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