Yes Larry Hicks Youre A Hero

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RICHMOND, Va. – Larry Hicks is a former Marine – don’t you dare say ex-Marine – a weightlifter, a strong, proud man. He’s beaten cancer twice.

And he saved Jack Roush’s life. But a hero? Hicks says no. No, even though he dove into 8 feet of fuel-infested water three times to bring Roush to the surface. Even though he administered CPR to resuscitate the Winston Cup team owner.

No, he’s not a hero, he said.

“You have to understand, in the Marine Corps, they talk about doing the right thing when it has to be done,” Hicks said. “To me, that was the right thing to do. I don’t know of a single Marine in the entire Marine Corps who would not have tried to at least to that. I really believe in my heart, the Marines, none of them would have hesitated. That’s why I have a real problem with the hero part because I didn’t do anything other than that the Marine Corps trained me to do.”

That training was almost as ironic as Hicks being on the same lake where Roush crashed. In 1984, Maj. David Stone put out a memo for volunteers to join an underwater rescue team. One of the first places Stone visited was the weight room, where Hicks was a frequent guest.

Hicks temporarily joined the team for two-and-a-half months, but when permanent selections were made, Hicks wasn’t on the list because he couldn’t leave his position at the time.

“I benefited from two-and-a-half months of really good training as a swimmer/diver for the Marines,” Hicks said. “That’s what saved Mr. Roush’s life, what the Marine Corps taught me.”

That’s Hicks’ story, and he’s sticking to it. But no one believes him. Anybody who hears the story of how Larry Hicks saved Jack Roush’s life knows Hicks is a hero.

“He’s always been my hero,” said Hicks’ wife, Donna. “I know he’s not comfortable with that. But seeing what he’s been through because he’s been ill, I know he thinks life is very precious. I wasn’t at all surprised at his response.”

Hicks and his wife were guests of the Marine Corps for Friday’s Busch Series race at Richmond International Raceway. Hicks spoke to reporters in the hauler of Bobby Hamilton Jr., whose car is sponsored by the Marines.

The story Hicks told was compelling and emotional, a real-life tale of life and death and of the man who snatched another man from death. The story has brought a lot of attention to Hicks, who admits he’s a bit uncomfortable by it all.

“Up until this time, the most excitement I had was from two grandchildren in the same room at the same time,” Hicks said. “My job is to try to stay calm through all this stuff. It’s really overwhelming.”

It hasn’t been easy, especially during a visit with Roush last Sunday at the hospital where Roush was recovering. Roush officials flew a plane to Troy, Ala. to pick up Hicks and bring him to Birmingham to meet Roush.

It was a private meeting, and the first person Hicks met was Roush’s brother, Frank.

“That was very emotional,” Hicks said. “That was kind of a prelude to what was going to happen. When Frank got emotional, I started to get emotional. Then it only went downhill from there.

“When I first saw Mr. Roush, it was extremely emotional. Neither one of us could talk for a while. We fell in love with Mr. Roush, his wife, one of his daughters, his son and his brother. He’s as close to his brother as I am to mine. It’s been a real pleasant experience. He’s a very gracious man. He’s treated us like gold.”

He called the meeting a “moving experience,” which is more emotion than a Marine usually exhibits.

“You have to understand me, being in the Marine Corps, you don’t really express your emotions that well,” Hicks said. “But it’s definitely made an impact on me. I know it has on my wife. We feel fortunate for his family.”

Roush did say an emotional “thank you” to Hicks, giving him a big hug. There were plenty of tears in the room as the two men met and embraced.

“I apologized right off the bat for not recognizing his name,” Hicks said. “Even after the told me when they loaded him in the ambulance, ‘Larry, do you know who that is?’ I said, I don’t know. They said, ‘That’s Jack Roush.’ I said, ‘OK, guys, I still don’t know who you’re talking about.’ I guess I was the only fan in Alabama who didn’t know he was.”

Roush was lucky it was Hicks though. A little after 6 p.m. local time – Hicks remembers the time because he was watching the news in his living room – on April 19, Hicks and his wife saw a plane flying over the lake outside their house.

“My wife remarked, ‘Look at the plane. Isn’t it pretty?’ ” Hicks said. “About that time, he made contact with the bottom strand of a power line about 75 feet off the water. The plane flipped upside-down and came straight down 75 feet.”

Hicks said it was “remarkable” that Roush survived the initial impact. The plane fell into 8 feet of water and submerged.

“By the time I had gotten from the bank to him, which was about 100 yards offshore, he had already drowned,” Hicks said. “He had compound fractures of his left leg, it was obvious massive head trauma.”

Hicks brought Roush’s limp body to the surface on a third dive to the bottom.

“When I brought him to the surface, I couldn’t touch bottom,” Hicks said. “I was hanging on to the wing with my left arm and hanging on to Mr. Roush’s head with my right arm. I listened to his breathing, and he was not breathing. He had drowned.”

Hicks did a modified Heimlich maneuver under Roush’s ribcage, and water spurted out of Roush’s mouth. Hicks moved Roush to his left arm and started doing modified CPR.

“On the fifth breath, he jumped and started breathing,” Hicks said. “When he started breathing, I yelled for the emergency crews that had just arrived on the bank. I said, ‘He’s breathing. I need some emergency people out here now.’ ”

The plane’s right engine was smoking, and there was aviation fuel in the water. But Hicks credited emergency workers who had just arrived for still jumping in the water.

“One thing that has not come out of this is the role of the Troy Police Department and the emergency crews that came there,” Hicks said. “We had him in the emergency room within 30 minutes. From the time he hit the power line to the time he got the emergency room was only 30 minutes.”

Roush has since recovered enough to return home to Michigan to begin his rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Hicks’ remarkable story has been told. And it wasn’t just his rescue.

Hicks retired from the Marines in 1990, a few months before his unit was sent to Kuwait. Hicks has also battled cancer twice, and it’s been in remission the second time for 14 months.

“If this had happened six months ago, I don’t think I could have gotten Mr. Roush out,” Hicks said. “I’m recovering from chemotherapy and radiation. I’ve lost about 30 pounds.”

Still, Hicks is an imposing figure, especially at age 52.

But a hero? Not me, Hicks said.

“I know I didn’t do this by myself,” Hicks said. “Even in the pond, we were there for 10 minutes, just me and Mr. Roush. I believe in my heart God had a big hand in this. I told Mr. Roush that, and he believes it also. There’s no way Mr. Roush should be alive right now, no way.

“But God’s not through with me, through the cancer treatments I’ve had. And I don’t think he’s through with Mr. Roush. I told Mr. Roush, 'You’ve got something special you’ve got to do.'"

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