According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a hero is “a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great.” Using that definition, there is no doubt that Jacob Lask-McLemore of Gladwin is a hero.
When Diana Mella of the Gladwin County American Legion Auxiliary Unit 171 heard about a young man who had saved another’s life, she immediately knew she wanted to learn more about the incident and who the young man was so she could try to recognize his action. She soon learned more about how Jacob reacted to an emergency with incredible bravery and thoughtful action, which resulted in him saving the life of a 20-year-old man.
What Diana learned was that Jacob, age 17 at the time, was driving on South Bard Road near Beaverton on February 4, 2020, and came upon a crash site. The site included a dead horse, a smashed buggy and parts of the buggy scattered in the road. He noticed a hat on the ground and immediately began looking for whomever was in the buggy.
Jacob located an unconscious man submerged in a ditch. He got in the ditch and held the man’s head above water as he called for emergency assistance. Jacob stayed with the man, holding his head the entire time until rescue arrived. The victim survived but was in critical condition.
Throughout the ordeal, Jacob reacted quickly, kept a level head, and stayed focused and calm. He even gave the police a description of a pickup truck he had met on the road just seconds before coming upon the accident scene. According to him, the pickup had extensive front-end damage. Information he shared was instrumental in locating the vehicle and the driver who had left the scene of the accident.
Diana is the President of Gladwin County American Legion Auxiliary Unit 171. She was familiar with the American Legion Auxiliary National Youth Hero Award and felt Jacob was a worthy nominee, so she applied through the National American Legion Auxiliary Children and Youth Program for the award. The application was approved and received in June of 2020. Because of the pandemic and other conflicts of scheduling, presentation of the award to Jacob was postponed until last week.
On June 2, 2021, Diana presented the American Legion Auxiliary Youth Hero Award to Jacob, which recognized him “for performing an act of bravery, courage and fortitude” and it was signed by the American Legion Auxiliary National Children and Youth Chairman, Lisa Williamson, and National President, Nicole Clapp.
Included with the award was a medal which also has the words bravery, courage and fortitude imprinted on it. When Diana asked Jacob if he considered himself a hero, Jacob responded, “No, I just did what I could to help someone, I would do it again.”
The awarding of the Youth Hero Award is to not only recognize the person who demonstrated a kind, caring act of selflessness but is also opportunities to be able to show deeds such as Jacob’s as an example for his friends, classmates, family and community to do selfless acts in their everyday lives, too.
A quote from Maya Angelou is, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” Diana Mella and other members of Gladwin County American Legion Auxiliary Unit 171 believe that, in his future endeavors, Jacob will continue to make the world a better place and wish him a successful and happy life.
Jacob is a 2021 graduate of Gladwin High School. His parents are James and Darcy Lask-McLemore.