Anna Nicole Smith. Paris Hilton. Two names that we recognize and belong to people we "think" we know. They are names and faces constantly in the news. Not for the good deeds they have done; not for the examples they have set. They are the famous "bad girls" and we're fascinated by their lives.
Jason Clairday. Shanda Hardin. Mark Miller. Three names that most people will not recognize. They don't make the daily news and gossip tabloids. They're not being arrested. They are everyday "good" people -- people we don't hear much about.
Jason Clairday grew up in Salem, Ark. He went to church, graduated from high school, got married, became a Marine. And he died helping others. He was only 21.
Cpl. Jason S. Clairday was honored recently by people who know he was a true hero. He was awarded the second-highest medal for valor in combat -- the Navy Cross. He is one of only 17 Marines to receive this honor for their actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Honor, service, commitment -- three noble words that describe this young man.
Shanda Hardin. A wife and mother. She also grew up in Salem, Ark. Her life and and continuing struggles are a story usually hidden; most times ignored; and often, not taken seriously.
Shanda has an eating disorder. A disorder she kept hidden for 20 years. She didn't have to walk into her hometown newspaper office and hand submit an article with the title, Breaking the Silence. But, she did. She did because her story might reach someone else and save them from the pain she has endured for most of her life.
Mark Miller. A determined man with a mission. He calls Pennsylvania home but his actions have impacted families across the United States. Twenty years ago he took his life savings and stepped out on faith to form the American Association for Lost Children. From its beginning the work that Mark has done has been free but worth a fortune. He finds missing children.
I had never heard of Mark until last Thursday, but I doubt I will ever forget him, and I know Brooke and Jessica won't. He arrived in Salem, Ark., like a whirlwind. He was only here for a few hours and probably won't be back, but he sure made an impact on a child's life.
Jayson Wells is a 7-year-old boy who has been living in Salem for about a year. He didn't attend the public school, he was home schooled by his mother. He didn't do a lot of things young boys his age usually do. His life was hidden; a big secret he couldn't tell. He even had a brand new name -- Robert Nathanael Nutt.
His mother loves him deeply -- there's no question about that. He also has two older sisters and a grandfather that love him and have made sure his needs were taken care of while he lived here.
But he also has a father he could not see. A father who also loves him deeply but had no idea where he was for 14 long months. That's where Mark Miller comes in.
We don't know a lot of details about Mark's search for this missing boy. We don't know the complete story of why Jayson was hiding in Salem. That's a story that will all come out in a court of law somewhere in Texas.
What we do know is that a little boy and his father were reunited Thursday evening in the parking lot next to the Fulton County Sheriff's office. The tears were real. The smiles were real. The excitement was real. A year of searching had come to an end, thanks to the persistence of one man, Mark Miller.
Jason Clairday, Shanda Hardin, Mark Miller - three individuals whose actions have impacted many lives in a very good way. That's what a real role model does.