We knew Blaine Hodge was a hero for stopping a broad-daylight machete attack — an intervention that saved a life and could easily have cost him his own. We didn't realize what kind of elite company that intervention would place him in.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society, an association of recipients of the nation's highest military honor, honored Hodge this week as a Congressional Medal of Honor Society Citizen Honors Award finalist for "Single Act of Heroism."
Hodge is in tall company. Very tall.
One finalist, Aaron Feis, lost his life shielding students during the February 2018 mass shooting at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., where he was an assistant football coach and campus security officer. Another finalist, Tammie Jo Shults of San Antonio, Texas, piloted a commercial jet to safety after a catastrophic engine failure sucked a woman halfway out of a window and almost brought down the plane.
Another finalist, James Shaw Jr., a 29-year-old electrician from Nashville, charged and disarmed a gunman who had already killed four at an Antioch Waffle House in Tennessee in spring 2018. And the fifth finalist, Stephen Willeford, also of San Antonio, chased down and shot the gunman responsible for killing 26 people at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church the morning of Nov. 5.
Hodge, an off-duty security guard and budding rapper-poet, was sitting near the front door of a Starbucks cafe on Stockdale Highway last September when a woman burst inside, screaming for help. A moment later a man, dressed head to toe in black, followed her in — and he had a foot-and-a-half long blade at his side.
The woman leapt into the baristas' station and the man followed her, and he then started swinging his machete. Hodge came after him, allowing the women to escape, but in the process suffered several grievous wounds himself. He needed 100 stitches on his left forearm, 65 on his right thigh, 40 on his right thumb and eight on his chest.
A suspect, Robert Daniel Rivas, 31, was arrested a short time later.
Hodge's physical wounds have healed, but he most likely has permanent nerve damage in his right hand. He still has numbness and partial paralysis there; he can't make a fist.
The Medal of Honor recipients will recognize a total of 20 nominees in four categories — Service Act, Young Hero and Community Service Hero as well as Single Act of Heroism — at a March 25 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"I appreciate it," Hodge said of his nomination, "but I didn't need the media to tell me I did the right thing. I think someone else on the list (of nominees) is more deserving, but I'm honored to even be considered. I look at it as a positive for the city."