FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - "He just always excelled. He's still doing it. And I'm thankful."
That's what a teacher at the Richard Winn Academy said this morning about one of her former students. The genteel teacher, Ellen Nicholson, has taught at the private school in Winnsboro since 1974 and has taught many students but still has fond memories of a young man who graduated in the mid-'90s: Charlie Hodges.
According to NBC News, Air Force Maj. Charles Hodges was one of two American servicemen who helped rescue 12 teenagers and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The boys spent at least two weeks in the damp, dark cave as the world watched anxiously as rescuers like Hodges pulled off a rescue mission that had no guaranteed success.
"We knew if we didn't act when we acted, there was not going to be a successful rescue," Maj. Hodges told NBC's "Today" Wednesday morning.
Hodges, who's now commander of the U.S. Air Force's 320th Special Tactics Squadron in Okinawa, Japan, is a product of Fairfield County. After graduating Richard Winn, he graduated from the Citadel in 2000. He still has family in Fairfield. They, too, are proud of Hodges' recent heroics.
As for Nicholson, she's not surprised at all.
"He would be the very type of person involved in something like that – some type of rescue," she said. "We want responsible, good citizens, and he fits that mold."
Wednesday morning, as she flipped through a yearbook from 1996 she flipped through accolades and superlatives Hodges received during his senior year. Some of them seem too prescient: Most Likely to Succeed, Most Intellectual, Best All Around, and a major athletics award for character.
Then, she flipped to his senior picture and read the goals he listed underneath his smiling portrait: travel the world and impact society.
"I suppose he's reached those goals," Nicholson said with an endearing smile.