Beautiful ironies and coincidences abounded at the table where North Fairfield resident Jeff Deeble sat with Mike Gurka Jr., of Greenwich.
Deeble, 40, part of the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department since 1989, shares the same birthday with Gurka, 21. Deeble was honored Saturday by the Firelands chapter of the American Red Cross for pulling Gurka out of his burning car Gurka and his father were honored two years ago for doing something similar for another motorist.
Gurka is grateful Deeble stopped to help him out of his severely damaged Plymouth Neon that was on fire on Old State Road. However, he doesn't remember what happened.
"I hear I was alert," Gurka said. "I remember the night before. I remember waking up to my senses in the hospital."
Deeble, a maintenance worker for the Huron County commissioners, believes what he did May 21 is similar to his work with the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department.
"It's something we're trained to do," he said. "It's something inside firemen. It's a drive we all have (to help people). When we get the call, we're ready to go."
Like Deeble, Norwalk resident Todd Corbin sees a direct parallel between what he does as a Marine and being a Huron County sheriff's deputy. He earned the military hero award for helping save the lives of more than a dozen soldiers during a deadly ambush of his tank May 7, 2005.
"What happened in Iraq goes hand-in-hand with what I do everyday. ... You have to have a giving attitude," Corbin said. "You put yourself out there. ... You have to be able to give of yourself."
Corbin's father, Joe Keahey, of Sandusky, is proud of his son, whom he said has been generous and self-sacrificing his entire life.
"He's always been a group player from when he's been playing sports through being in the sheriff's department," Keahey added.
He shared one incident about March 2005 that might have prompted his son's heroic actions when his company's tank was attacked. Corbin saw other soldiers "walking the roads" looking for improvised explosive devices.
"He said, 'Those guys are risking their lives for me.' When they got back, he started thanking every one of them," Keahey said. "He thought about doing the same thing."
Corbin works one weekend each month and two weeks annually with the Marine Corps Reserves. Corbin will be with the sheriff's office 10 years as of March 17.
He acknowledges that every time he responds to a complaint in Huron County, he potentially is risking his life. However, Corbin said emergency responders do so to protect others.
"Most people want to get away from trouble. When you're a public servant, you're going toward trouble," he explained.
The Firelands chapter of the Red Cross honored 10-year-old Greenwich resident Kiley Baker for her "megawatt smile" and optimism in recovering from being hit by a dump truck June 26.
Her left leg was amputated below the knee and her left arm was broken. She needed skin grafts to close the leg wound. Several surgeons had to reattach several tendons in her left hand.
Commissioner Mike Adelman, the announcer Saturday, called Kiley "a young lady who takes adversity in stride."
Kiley said her attitude helped her get her through the recovery process, but admitted it was difficult at times. While she looked forward to returning to fourth grade at South Central Elementary School, Kiley also said it "bothered" her that she was doing so in a wheelchair.
"Hopefully this summer we'll have her up and walking around," added her mother, Angela Baker, who thought her daughter might die at one point. "We're going to start the prosthesis (process) in May."
Baker attributed her daughter's recovery to the power of community prayer, saying "that helped."
"It was quite a miracle that she made it," she said, noting that Kiley lost about half of the blood in her body by the time she arrived at the hospital. "She just took each day as it came and kept plugging away."