In my role as a journalist I’ve had the opportunity to interview presidents, governors, generals and spouses of Medal of Honor recipients.
With that being said, I have never been so thrilled to talk to two men, who in my humble opinion, have been dubbed heroes not only by me but by many Coastal Courier readers and website viewers.
I’m talking about two brave men whose names are Brandon Long and Ron Sluder. In case these names don’t ring a bell, let me remind you what it is they both did along with a third man who was never identified, but was just as instrumental in the rescue of Deondre Shuman from a burning car. This was a recent news story run in the Courier, both on the website and in the newspaper.
Long, Sluder and another man were traveling on Georgia Highway 196 early in the morning, heading to various destinations only to eventually be destined for the book of heroes. At some point during his drive, Shuman, who was traveling westbound through Gum Branch, lost control of his vehicle and crossed over into the eastbound lane onto the shoulder of the highway continuing until he struck a tree.
The impact apparently was so great that the vehicle bounced off the tree several feet. When it came to a stop Shuman was trapped inside the vehicle. The fire that was ignited began slowly – at first. Now this is where the heroes of the county come in. Both Long and Sluder, as well as the unidentified “angel,” came upon the accident which from all accounts had the makings of a tragedy. Without a second thought these men bolted to the vehicle to render aid to a stranger; yes, a man who, until they began pulling on the jammed door, had no idea existed. Once the civilian rescuers got the door open, they faced a second hurdle. They had to get Shuman out of his car without causing him injury. Shuman was described by sources as a rather large man, which made the job of removing him difficult. Long told me they first tried pulling him out by his arms, but to no avail. Then they went to the driver’s side and tried pushing and pulling him out; again no luck. Now, keep in mind flames are starting to spread and smoke is beginning to fill the interior of the vehicle. Long was aware of this while the seconds slowly ticked by and he thought to himself, “I hope this car doesn’t blow up.”
Nonetheless, the doubts that separate the average man from the hero didn’t cross his mind. They had a job to do. They had to save someone placed in their paths by fate.
Finally, the men grabbed Shuman’s legs and – miraculously – Shuman slid out of the vehicle. Within minutes of pulling Shuman from the car it burst into flames.
These three men cheated the grim reaper. No one had to die on their watch. Liberty County Fire Chief Capt. Brian Darby told me had it not been for these men, the outcome certainly would have been tragic.
I never got to meet Long or Sluder in person; neither wanted to be labeled a hero. I asked Long why he did it, especially with all the dangers involved to his own safety, why save a total stranger?
“Well, I would hope someone would do the same for me if I was in that situation,” he said.
So, this is what it takes to be a hero: the drive to help someone. Whether it’s to save a life because it’s the right thing to do, or simply buy someone who is down on their luck a meal so they don’t go hungry. A hero is a word that is tossed around freely these days, and has lost some of its true meaning in today’s society.
However, when used to describe Long, Sluder and the mystery “angel,” it’s a word that takes on new meaning.
Lewis Levine is a correspondent with the Coastal Courier. He primarily covers breaking news.