WeSalute Awards

HeroVet: Times Square Heroes, Vietnam Veterans Alert Police of Bomber Threat

Navy Vietnam Veteran Duane Jackson
Vietnam Veteran Lance Orton
Vietnam Veteran Lance Orton

Many times acts of heroism are embodied by the famous and powerful.  But sometimes it can be just an everyday face in the crowd, an ordinary person who steps up to do something extraordinary. On the evening on May 1, 2010, two seemingly ordinary people tapped into their Veterans experience to save lives at one of the nation’s most-famous public spaces: Times Square, New York City.

Ever since 9/11, New Yorkers are reminded of their duty to look out for themselves and the safety of others. Posters are plastered across town reminding citizens “If you see something, say something.” It’s become a mantra.

But Times Square is filled with all sorts – public performance artists, actors, musicians, misguided tourists – it’s a circus where the unusual can often pass as par for the course. But our HeroVets were able to drill down a little deeper to spot something truly unusual and potentially catastrophic.

“It is not only Veterans. We are all in this together--Us Americans. And this is a new form of warfare, and the enemy is here,” says Duane Jackson, a Navy Veteran in an exclusive interview with Veterans Advantage. His heroism that day reflects his military service and his experience as a civilian, selling downtown on Wall Street. Ironically he was working only blocks away from the site of the 1993 World Trade Center bomb attempt, and he was there on 9/11/2001. “We all must be aware of our surroundings,” he adds.

According to the New York Times, when asked if he was proud of his actions, T-shirt salesman Lance Orton, replied: “Of course, man. I’m a veteran. What do you think?”

“There are a bunch of us disabled Vets selling here, and we’re used to being vigilant because we all know that freedom isn’t free,” added Jackson.

The Vets got accolades running the gamut of public service, from the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, Governor Patterson. Even President Obama dropped a line to Jackson to personally pass along his gratitude. “It was humbling,” he said.

Jackson and Orton at first were confused why an unaccompanied Nissan Pathfinder would be parked in a bus lane, a “No Standing Zone” and they checked it out. “He (Orton) came from the left flank and I came from the right,” Jackson added, fittingly in military terms.

A cop shined a flashlight into the car and they were stunned to see smoke and hear the sound of firecrackers. A NYPD Officer, Wayne Rhatigan, with the help of two rookie police offers, was credited with subsequently evacuating the area around 45th Street and Broadway.

For Jackson, service has always been important. He has been busy lately speaking before local schools and commencement addresses, spreading the “See Something. Say something” message in all areas of life. Serving his fellow Vets has also been important. For about 20 years he has been active with his local VVA and American Legion posts, as well as always helping fellow Vets get their claims registered with the VA. Most recently, he has even been asked to speak at the American Legion National Convention this coming August.

“I like to think of myself as a representative of those who did not come home and those who are in harm’s way today,” Jackson says. “That was my calling, and now that I had my 15 minutes of fame, I continue.”

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