With Memorial Day fresh on our minds, I'll introduce you to one of Tampa's greatest heroes. And I'll have you asking yourself -- could you have done what he did?
Why do they call it Lopez Elementary School?
Every school has an American flag flying out front. But there may not be anywhere where it means as much as it does at Lopez Elementary School in Seffner.
Baldomero Lopez was a typical kid from Tampa. Heroes often start out as typical kids.
"Simple childhood -- nothing really extraordinary about him. But, obviously, his life would end in an extraordinary way," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.
He says Lopez graduated from Hillsborough High School and later went to the U.S. Naval Academy. His classmates there were big fans of his.
Let's take a look at a line from his yearbook. It reads, "Being one of the biggest-hearted, best-natured fellows in the brigade has won Lobo a vast number of friends."
"Lobo?" Oh, yes, he had nicknames. Lobo Lopez, Punchy Lopez, and -- to his family and friends -- Baldy Lopez. But he earned himself one of the best nicknames of all: Marine Corps Lieutenant Lopez.
He continued to earn that title through fierce fighting. Bullets, explosions in every direction -- in battle, Lopez didn't flinch.
And his courage was captured in a photo.
Theblack-and-white image shows Lt. Lopez leading a charge over the top of a wall and into the fight. It's during a bold, dangerous landing from the sea early in the Korean War.
For Marines, thephoto of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima is the most prized photo from World War II.
And that picture -- with a Tampa native fearlessly climbing over the wall and leading his men into the fury of battle -- is among their most iconic images from Korea.
TheArmed Forces History Museum in Largo has mementos from Baldomero Lopez's life, including his uniforms, donated by his family.
They also have an incredible life-size re-creation of the moment captured in that photo. A figure in green fatigues is scaling a wall after climbing from a landing ship.
This is hard to believe, but all of the courage captured in that photo -- is almost nothing, compared to what would happen just a few moments later.
"He was throwing a grenade during battle," Kite-Powell said. "And as he was throwing the grenade, he was shot."
"He dropped the grenade at his feet. And his men were all around him."
Baldomero Lopez, just 25 years old, did what his training and his upbringing in Tampa taught him was right.
"Knowing that he had no other choice -- he couldn't throw the grenade because he didn't have enough time left -- he actually threw himself on the grenade and sacrificed his life to save the lives of those around him," Kite-Powell said.
That stirring bravery earned Lopez America's greatest military recognition, the Medal of Honor.
It was awarded after his death, but it's still reflected on his uniform at the Armed Forces History Museum. The medal is represented by a light blue, star-spangled ribbon placed above all others on his Marine Corps uniform's left breast.
As a war correspondent wrote, he "died with the courage that makes men great."
Why do they call it that? Now you know.
Five Medal of Honor recipients have come from communities in our 10 News viewing area: Two from Tampa, one from Clearwater, one from Fort Meade, and one from Sebring.
We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.