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Local men and women, grace and grit

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Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:53 am, Sat Aug 11, 2012.

We read entirely too much these days about the less admirable deeds committed by men and women. The psychotic violence. The scandals of the celebrity set. The greed of the Wall Street barons.

There is much to celebrate in the human spirit, too. Acts of courage and character are all around us, if we pay attention.

In recent days, some of these honorable men and women have made headlines, and deservedly so.

***

Take, for instance, Capt. Brandon Wright of the Mokelumne Rural Fire Protection District. As our reporter Sara Jane Pohlman reported, Wright is the kind of guy who is happy to lean against the wall during a gathering, watching a party go on around him.

Yet a party was held to honor him Thursday, as Wright is leaving Sunday for a deployment in Afghanistan. He will serve with the B Company First 126 Aviation unit, working on Chinook helicopters.

He leaves his wife, Erin, a 6-year-old daughter and twin toddler boys.

It is his second deployment in Afghanistan, his third since he joined the Army National Guard nine years ago.

"Whenever they call, you go," said Wright.

Godspeed, captain.

***

Stepping up can mean serving our country, like Brandon Wright. Or it can mean helping those who serve, as Tara Phillips did this week.

Her brother, James Tecklenburg, enlisted in the army this year and wanted to collect care packages for those in his unit.

Phillips thought that might number 25. When she learned the number was 100, she didn't flinch. With friends and family, Phillips this week gathered up snacks, letters and Bibles and packaged them for shipment to her brother's unit.

Project Thank You is donating $500 to ship the packages full of TLC to Afghanistan.

***

Sometimes courage is physical, raw and simple.

How many people are expected to physically chase down and subdue another human being, not knowing if that person is armed, dangerous or desperate?

Lodi Police Officer Kevin Kent chased down not one, but two suspects in the span of a few hours earlier this month.

Arrested: One suspect with outstanding warrants, and another for possession of meth and resisting arrest.

Fortunately, Kent was not injured.

***

Another Lodi officer worthy of note is Larry Vietz, a veteran who climbed back on a police motorcycle this week.

This is his second round on the motorcycle unit. The assignment is a tough one, as officers are expected to stay on the bikes even during high heat and wet, icy conditions.

Vietz, though, loves it.

"To get the opportunity to do it a second time is the best thing that could happen to me," he told reporter Maggie Creamer.

***

A different kind of grit and grace was revealed in London this week, where Stephanie Brown Trafton of Galt made the Olympic finals of the women's discus but did not win a medal.

Brown Trafton won gold in Beijing, but never showed the swagger or attitude often associated with elite athletes.

She was humble, grateful, very much down to earth. She spoke to countless civic and school groups in Galt and Lodi.

She was no doubt disappointed in London, but she revealed her typical composure, waving gamely to the crowd and congratulating the winners.

Stephanie Brown Trafton, winning or not, is an inspiration.

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