Heroic Men in 2012

We pause to honor the men who loved, changed lives and saved them in 2012. 

We obviously talk a lot around here about what it means to be a good man. Sometimes it can be hard to translate what we talk about into tangible actions, so we wanted to highlight the acts of  a few of the many men who did their part in transforming this world into a better place during this past calendar year.

1. Marine’s surprise homecoming for his brother’s college basketball game

Bailey and Meyers Leonard, two brothers that are only 22 months apart, share a lifelong bond after their father died when Meyers was only 6 years old. Bailey joined the Marines and came home to see his little brother play for the Portland Trail Blazers University of Illinois in a basketball game against the University of Michigan.

2. A quadruple-amputee and girlfriend’s love bind them together to a war zone and back again 

Taylor Morris was injured while serving in the military and his girlfriend, Danielle Kelly, has stayed with him through his recovery.

Photo copyright Tim Dodd photography. Used with permission.

Read more: A Love Story in 22 Pictures

3. Newark Mayor Cory Booker goes on food stamps to raise awareness about the lives of his constituents

Mayor Cory Booker could probably go the rest of his life without ever having to consider going on food stamps. But instead, after a couple of inspiring tweets, he joined the #SNAP CHALLENGE. He chronicled his journey through a series of YouTube videos.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/CoryBooker/statuses/270362909694128129″]

Read more: Mayor Cory Booker Commits to Living on Food Stamps

4. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe pens controversial letter to Maryland legislator in defense of marriage equality

We loved Chris Kluwe for his willingness to stand up for the LGBTQ community in his punchy and well-written letter. As a result, he was placed on the cover of OUT magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children.

Read more: Vikings’ Chris Kluwe Kicks Serious Verbal Ass—And You Should Too

5. Anderson Cooper comes out of the closet

There were many great things about this story, but one of them was how supportive the generally public seemed to be. Anderson Cooper comes out and no one bats an eyelash? This is a good thing to celebrate. I will leave you with this awesome A.C. gif.

Read more: Surprise! Anderson Cooper is Gay & Anderson Cooper Comes Out

6. The men who shielded the women they were with at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting

There were more heroes than villains in that Aurora, Colorado movie theater where twelve were killed. Three female survivors of the shooting were shielded by the men accompanying them.

Read more: 100 Acts of Male Goodness: #49: Aurora

7. Man risks life to save baby from a burning house

Jason Hood of Mansfield, Ohio was watching his friends’ baby when he realized something wasn’t right in the house. He opened the door to the baby’s room and saw the whole room on fire. He ran through the flames and saved the child.

Read more: 100 Acts of Male Goodness: #50: Houseguest

8. CEO of Costco recognized for his goodness towards employees and ethical business practices

When the news broke that the Twinkie might be going away, the internet nearly lost its brains. But after the bad business practices of the executives of Hostess came to light, it only made sense for the sweets manufacturer to be closing its doors. Shortly thereafter, a meme about how amazing Costco to its employees in comparison went viral.


Read more: Costco CEO Criticized for Being Too Good to Employees

9. Paralympic double amputee Oscar Pistorius wins individual gold in the 400 meter dash at the Olympics

The reason for this historic achievement by Oscar Pistorius was summed up perfectly by Alexandra Topping of The Guardian:

The final sporting event in this gasp-inducing Olympic Stadium was, to the joy of the 80,000 watching inside it, won by the man who has done more than any other to pull the Paralympics from the edge of sporting endeavour and into the public consciousness. It was a fitting ending to an extraordinary summer for the man they call “Blade Runner”. Since the opening ceremony of the Olympics he has run 11 races in this stadium, leaving it until the very last to win his first individual gold.

Read more: Should Oscar Pistorius’ Relay Team Advance to Finals?Oscar Pissed-orius

Photo credit: Flickr / David Jones

10. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie puts aside differences during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

There’s one thing it seems that people want more in times of crisis from politicians than anything else: to know that ultimately they as people matter more to them than their campaigns. This quote was beyond exactly what everyone needed to hear that day:

“I don’t give a damn about election day. It doesn’t matter a lick to me. I’ve got much bigger fish to fry.”
Chris Christie


Read more: Open Thread: What Photos of Hurricane Sandy Have Affected You Most?

Photo credit: Flickr / charliekwalker

11. NYC cop buys homeless man a pair of boots

On a cold night in New York City, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working his shift and came across an older homeless gentleman without shoes. He left briefly and bought him a new pair of socks and boots.

Read more: PHOTO: Police Officer Warms Homeless Man’s Feet and Our Hearts

Photo credit: Jennifer Foster, NYPD’s Facebook Page

12. Former NBA player Jayson Williams owns up to mistakes, tells his story to youth

Our own Joanna Schroeder says this about the former NBA star now turned inspirational speaker: “Inspiring story of transformation from former New Jersey Nets star Jayson Williams, a first-round draft pick who spiraled into recklessness after an injury early in his career. Williams speaks humbly about the transformation in his life after serving his time in prison for killing his chauffeur in a reckless accident in 2002.”

Read more: Jayson Williams – From First-Round NBA Draft Pick to Felon, and now Inspiring Author

13. HONY (Humans of New York) photo fundraiser after Superstorm Sandy

Brandon Stanton of “Humans of New York” fame took photos of people in the hardest-hit sections of New York after Sandy and paired up with Tumblr to create a fundraising campaign. His campaign raised at least $228,000 in less than two days.

Read more: Humans Of New York And Tumblr Sandy Fundraiser: Brandon Stanton’s Photos Inspire Viral Campaign (PHOTOS)

14. Dan Mintz helps produce first successful China & US film cooperative in the making of “Looper”

Phil Hoad of The Guardian says, “Dan Mintz’s DMG agency offers guidance to Hollywood studios trying to crack the Chinese market as its co-production hopes to navigate the cultural divide.”


Read more: Looper bridges the cinematic gap between China and the US & Dan Mintz Interview @ Bloomberg West

15. The MOVEMBER Movement turns facial hair into a conversation starter about men’s health

From the Movember website, “Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.”

In 2011, they raised $126.3 million dollars for men’s health.


Read more: Pick Your Moustache for Movember

Photo credit: Flickr / makelessnoise

16. Politician Ed Perlmutter helps wounded military serviceman’s wife to get passport and military ID

 17. The men of Sandy Hook: Rick Thorne and Ted Varga

These men, alongside many women, risked their lives to protect the children of Newtown in one of the most horrific days this country has seen in a long time. Dennis Hamill of the New York Daily News pens this beautiful and heart-breaking article about these heroes that we ought to celebrate in 2013:

“Raise a glass to Ted Varga, a fourth-grade teacher who escaped through an emergency exit, but had the courage to return to the school to help a trio of co-workers escape.”

“Jump for joy for a Sandy Hook Elementary janitor named Rick Thorne who did a Paul Revere run through the hallways after spotting the gunman, shouting, ‘A gunman is coming! A gunman is coming!’ He checked to make sure the classroom doors were locked.”

 Read more: The Sandy Hook Shooting and What We Call Things & Five Children’s Questions About the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Who would you add to this list?

Lead photo credit: YouTube, Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” (@BTNJourney) MEYERS AND BAILEY LEONARD


About Deanna Ogle

Deanna Ogle hails from the greater Detroit area and her work has appeared in The Good Men Project, The Printed Blog, and Provoketive Magazine. She is studying journalism and religious studies, and writes at her personal blog Soul like a Spider. Loves: carnations, iced espresso, and watching movies with her husband. Find her at Twitter, Google and Facebook.


  1. Theodore Varga is a Hungarian-American.

  2. So much for the historic, heroic achievement of Oscar Pistorius. Another sports inspiration ends in ignominy and travesty.


  3. Thank you Deanna!

    Being often discouraged about mankind and our “dark sides”, I really need this kind of info to remind myself we are able to great deeds as well.
    Hope is not lost. 🙂

  4. Thanks for this list. As men, this list should inspire us to make these types of actions the norm rather than the exception.

  5. Wicked awesome list…though I think Frank Ocean’s coming out was possibly a bigger risk than Anderson Cooper’s. I mean, Cooper was kind of in a glass closet anyway whereas Frank Ocean’s coming out was like totally out of left field.

    But hey, it’s all subjective anyway at that point. 😀 Great list.

  6. Joanna Schroeder says:


  7. adolfo soriano says:

    Nice stories. However, in the first one, Bailey Leonard came home to see his brother play basketball for the University of Illinois, not the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. A few months later he was drafted by the Blazers.

  8. Tom Matlack says:

    Thank Deanna. Great list!


  1. […] of Illinois after Bailey was sent to Afghanistan with the marines. They were featured in our Heroic Men in 2012 article, but we just recently came across this touching and heartwarming video of their […]

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