Courageous | Molly Hudgens
"Every day in this country, ordinary Americans become extraordinary. It can happen in a single instance of bravery - or through service to others. These acts of courage and self-sacrifice symbolize the American spirit; and are recognized every year on National Medal of Honor Day by our nation's greatest heroes.
Each year a nationwide search is organized by The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which selects four United States citizens and one organization to receive the Citizen Honors awards. The honorees receive this award from a group of Americans whose actions have defined the words courage and selfless service — the living members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society." [www.themedalofhonor.com]
On an ordinary day, September 28, 2016, my friend Molly Hudgens walked into school to start her day as school guidance counselor. Several hours later her world was turned upside down as a young man entered her office to talk to her and she realized he had a loaded gun.
Molly recounts the story with honesty, tears, love, fear, courage and an entire range of emotions. She tells how she spent the next 90 minutes talking a troubled middle schooler into surrendering that gun to her. She tells how she prayed with him, how she held him as they both cried. She tells how all the sixteen years of training she had -- ironically specializing in school shootings -- lined up on that day to help prevent a tragedy. She attributes it all to God's hedge of protection over them. It was no coincidence that that morning was "See You at the Pole" day where students and parents came together before school to pray for their school.
Molly can quote all kinds of statistics on school shootings. She knew all the details of what could happen. She trained school and police personnel on the topic. And I know she never thought it would happen in her school. And yet it did.
Some tout her as a hero. She is. Some tout her as a victim. She is not. She is a courageous, God-fearing woman, a wife, a mom, a community member, a daughter, a friend, a counselor. She is so many things to so many people. And she saved countless lives by being the person this child felt was the only person who could talk him out of doing this horrible act. After this event in her life, I remember watching her cry as the Grand Marshall of the local parade. I watched her sob running across the finish line of a 5K. I know she is still thankful for every day, for every moment that she's been given since that day. I know our community is thankful for her. I know I am thankful that God protected her that day because I love her so much!
Molly was awarded the Citizen's Medal of Honor on Saturday, March 25, 2017 on National Medal of Honor Day. The presentation was held at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia.
She now speaks to groups around the country about her experience that day. She trains others on preventing teen violence. She had served as a trainer for the Cheatham County Sheriff's office and the Juvenile Courts prior to the event -- the same group of people who worked alongside her to handle this event.
I felt less-than-equipped to be the person capturing this amazing story, but I am so thankful that she trusted me with it. I am thankful to call her a friend. I am thankful that she is the counselor at my own daughter's school.
Hearing her talk about the honor and pride she feels about receiving this award, wearing this medal and all it represents is humbling and emotional. The walls in her office are covered with accolades, which, while she appreciates, I know she feels is ... well, too much for a girl who was just doing her job. Molly is the kind of person we all strive to be. She is real.
She wears a bracelet with the names of the teachers who have lost their lives in school shootings. She says they are the ones who should be wearing the medal of honor not her.
She tells of Principal Dawn Hochsprung of Sandy Hook Elementary who lunged toward their shooter in attempt to take him down before being fatally shot. She wears the bracelet in honor of these fallen heroes, and I suspect, as a reminder of what could have been on that September 28, 2016 day in her office.