A Nevada middle school teacher has posthumously been awarded a rare Air Force medal for bravery, a year after he was killed while trying to protect children during a schoolyard shooting.
Nevada Air National Guard Brig. Gen. William Burks and Col. David Clark presented the Air Force Airman’s Medal on Sunday to Sharon Landsberry, the widow of Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry. More than 500 people gathered for the ceremony at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
“He was a very brave man,” said Clark, vice commander of the Nevada Guard’s 152nd airlift wing. “He had a lot of integrity and was one teacher who would put his life on the line for his kids, absolutely.”
Michael Landsberry, 45, was shot and killed by a seventh grader who wounded two fellow students before killing himself on the asphalt basketball court outside the middle school just east of Sparks on Oct. 21, 2013.
Students said they saw Michael Landsberry walk calmly toward 12-year-old Jose Reyes and ask him to hand over his weapon before he was gunned down. Former Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said Michael Landsberry’s actions gave some students enough time to run to safety.
Before presenting the Airman Medal to his widow, Burks defined a hero as a person with character, who in the face of danger, shows courage and self-sacrifice instead of weakness.
“I believe this definition probably best describes why we’re here today,” he said.
Michael Landsberry served two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada Guard and coached several school sports teams. He served in the Marine Corps from 1986 to 1990 and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan, according to military records.
Sharon Landsberry also was presented Sunday with the United States’ Valley Forge Cross for Heroism, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Clark said the Airman’s Medal is the highest award given to an airman for heroism in noncombat. He said fewer than 250 have been issued since it was created in 1960.
“It’s very well deserved,” said Clark, who served 10 years in the Nevada Air Guard alongside Master Sgt. Michael Landsberry and taught social studies next door to him for seven years at Sparks Middle School.