“It must be the sleep medication kicking in now and making me feel like posting something before I head to bed. I love my life. I love the people who surround and suport me with their kindness, allowing and welcoming me to become part of their lives. It shows from your smiles; from your thoughtfulness; offering to help me physically get into and out of my vehicle, along with my wheelchair, “that steel horse I ride”. And, of course, that next lucky dog that rides and rolls with me. Although I have learned to become accustomed to living with certain physical challenges that I rarely even think about in my day to day life, I can’t help but to be feeling gratitude for all the strangers and how many times thoughtful people can take the time and effort to ask and to offer. By opening doors for me, letting me stand in line to cut before them at the casheir; carrying groceries for me out to the car; pumping gas at the gas station for me when it was either raining or I was somewhat lazy. Because of wonderful people like you, this place and area is what I can proudly call my home, living and breathing somewhere in Northwest Alabama, also known as the Shoals.” Facebook post, Hero Le
Every hero has a story, and Hero Le is no exception. It’s just that Hero Le says his life keeps “getting better and better;” so his happy ending is ongoing. Originally from Vietnam, Le came to America in 1975. “When (North Vietnam) took over (South Vietnam), my parents, my sister and brother and I escaped to Buffalo, NY,” Le indicated. “I have no recollection of Vietnam.” The present journey for Le started with his name. “Hung” was my birth name,” Le quipped, “I couldn’t go around saying, ‘I’m Hung’.” His older sister, Huyen, informed him that the word “hung” translates to “hero,” and Le began to fulfill the meaning of his new name.
At age two, Le contracted polio, and he remembers his arrival in the USA. “My first recollection of the USA was falling out of my mother’s arms into the snow. It was painful,” Le recalls. “I wanted to play like my brother and sister, but couldn’t.” Le walked on crutches and wore leg braces. “I kept falling.” Finally, Le received a wheelchair, which “made life much easier – (did not require) as much energy. “ His “steel horse,” as he calls it, “changed (his) life.”
When his father became ill, Le moved from California to Florence, AL to help his sister care for him. When his father passed, Le never left Florence; it became his new home. “I love the people here…I’m a part of this place.” While Le loves the people in Florence, he also has two other loves: animals and film making. “I’ve always loved animals. I felt there needed to be a record about animal abuse and rescue,” says Le. “I interviewed and documented a rescue group and helped to get the word out about pet care, including mistreatment. “ Le has been responsible for rescuing dogs in the area, and the shelter of Lauderdale County “has been a role model for other shelters in AL.” Le always has a camera in his hands, documenting life events, people, and animals in Florence.
Le has also volunteered for a Lauderdale County McDonalds. “I boost the morale of the customers, “ laughs Le, “and we made history by doing the first pet adoption event for McDonalds, Mac-A-Doption Event.” We helped to raise funds for the Lauderdale County Animal Shelter and also helped to educate people about animals and shelters. “It also got out an important message about shelters to politicians.”
Le wants to write a book one day, “Not about me,” says Le, “but about the community.” Le admits he is learning more about himself every day. “I used to hate myself. I used to punish myself for mistakes, “ Le admits. “I’ve learned to love myself through acceptance of change.”
Documenting life as he experiences it, Hero Le films his way into the hearts of all of the Shoals area in Alabama. His love for animals is second only to his love for his family and his community.
Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Garden Spices Magazine