Hero” is perhaps the most overused word in the American lexicon. Once deployed sparingly to describe those who performed remarkable acts of valor and sacrifice, it is now attached to the names of multitudes whose main achievement is simply reporting for duty. This overuse has cheapened the word. Commonality is a natural enemy of exception.

Earl Granville is as uncommon as we come. The Carbondale native is rightly being called a hero the world over this morning after carrying a fellow runner across the finish line at Monday’s Boston Marathon. That he did so without the left leg he lost fighting in Afghanistan only adds to the fascination. War cost Earl a limb and his twin brother, Joe, but he marches on, showing the rest of us what it takes to face true adversity and keep “rucking.”

I was blessed to be an embedded reporter in Bosnia-Herzegovina with Earl, Joe and many other local soldiers back in 2002. I watched the brothers distribute crayons and coloring books to children in Kalesija, a city that had been bombed to rubble. It felt good to be there. Important. I felt the same as I watched the video of Earl carrying a kindred soul across the finish line. And pride. Immense pride.

Earl has done important work for veterans suffering from PTSD while battling his own demons. Click here to read Times-Tribune Staff Writer David Singleton‘s 2013 story about Earl, and be sure to watch Staff Photographer Jake Danna Stevens‘ award-winning photo essay. It details a journey that can only be called heroic.