The story of our next 2014 Everyday Hero Award Winner Gary Priehs is a special one to us. Because it’s not really about what one individual did to help someone out – it’s about how a whole community has rallied around a family who lost their son / brother / husband / father at war.
The community is Sault Sainte Marie – a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Called the “Soo” by locals, it is geographically isolated from other towns creating a fierce loyalty among the townspeople.
This loyalty came to light when the Soo lost a favored son Brandon in Afghanistan in October 2009. Brandon was 23 years old. He left behind a wife and daughter. He was known as a gentle giant who had played baseball, hockey and been an all-around American boy.
After Brandon’s death, his father started a Facebook page about Brandon where he poured his heart out and Soo townspeople paid respects to fallen soldiers like Brandon and others who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The community came together to help Brandon’s surviving family members – in ways big and small.
One of the Facebook stories he told was the struggle getting Brandon’s truck home to the Soo from Fort Hood, Texas. After four years of effort, Brandon’s father was finally successful in getting the truck back and then he went to work to fix it up as a way to honor Brandon.
This is where Gary, our technician comes in. Gary lives in the Soo and had been following Brandon’s Facebook tribute page. So when his father came into Safelite on a chilly March day to have the windshield on Brandon’s truck replaced, Gary performed the replacement and when his father attempted to pay, Gary said, “it’s covered.”
Shortly after, Brandon’s sister wrote to us saying, “This kindness will never be forgotten… I know Gary didn’t do it for recognition, just kindness. Sault-Ste-Marie is our home… filled with people that are truly wonderful.”
While we are thankful to have technicians like Gary representing us, we think the real hero is Brandon and we sincerely honor his sacrifice and hold up his family in support.