This week the spotlight is on Tom O'Neill.
A more deserving person would be hard to find. O'Neill, a decorated World War II combat veteran, has my utmost respect.
He was born May 25, 1925 in Atlantic City, N.J., and has lived in a few different places.
His father was the Union Organizer for the plumber's union, part of the American Federation of Labor, and the job involved moving around.
"I attended Catholic schools everywhere we lived. Being the new kid, I always had to fight my way in for acceptance with the other boys," O'Neill said. "I became quite tough defensively."
O'Neill attended St. Ignatius High School (now St. Ignatius College Prep), a Jesuit run parochial school in San Francisco.
"My high school was known as being very strong academically. I appreciated the training I received there," said O'Neill.
He grew up the youngest of five sons. Two brothers became Navy pilots, one brother worked in the oil business and another died as a baby.
During O'Neill's late teenage years, the question wasn't "are you going to enlist to fight in the war," the question was "when?" O'Neill left for Camp Gruber, Okla., in August 1943. He was 18 years old. During the war, Camp Gruber provided training for infantry, field artillery and tank destroyer units. O'Neill was in Company G, 242 Infantry, 42nd Rainbow Division.
"I became a machine gunner. It was considered an elite group in World War II. I made Sergeant in April of 1944. I was 19," said O'Neill.
He told me about his combat experience, and I was enthralled. There is nothing like hearing a combat veteran tell you firsthand what war was like.
Later, I did a little research and read about the exact battles O'Neill told me he participated in. His memory is perfect.
He and the other young American soldiers mustered up the courage, tenacity and loyalty it took to fight in what were sometimes nearly hand-to-hand combat situations.
"We were well-trained soldiers and that gave us young guys confidence," said O'Neill.
"Were you ever afraid?" I asked. After a long pause, O'Neill said he often read the Mass aloud from his prayer book. His faith helped him and others in his company.
"No one cared what denomination my prayer book was," he said. "Prayers turned out to be a source of comfort to many."
As his unit moved on foot from Furth to Nuremberg in Germany, O'Neill was wounded. He fell face forward in a watery ditch and laid there for a few hours.
"My lieutenant finally found me and, seeing how badly wounded I was, wanted to give me morphine. I was afraid I'd be knocked out from the drug and then drown in the ditch. After helping me put my head on my helmet to keep my face out of the water, he administered the morphine," said O'Neill.
He was taken to several hospitals in Europe to be treated as he was initially paralyzed.
"I went through lots of rehabilitation and eventually walked again," O'Neill said.
He has been awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for his many valiant efforts. O'Neill is putting his memoirs of the war together to be transcribed into book form.
For the first several years after the war, O'Neill worked in the National Service Offices of Disabled American Veterans as an advocate for disabled veterans. He then went on to a long career of executive positions in hardware, beginning with sales and eventually becoming president of Delf Hardware. He ended his career as an international manufacturer's representative.
O'Neill and his wife, Kathleen, have lived in south Charlotte 13 years.
"Kay was working as a secretary for the FBI when I met her," O'Neill said. "We met on a blind date."
They have a son, a daughter and three grandchildren.