Toledo native's story honored by the Smithsonian
Toledo native Kevin Zimmerman doesn't think of himself as a hero.
As an Army medic, he risked his own life to save others, but he'd rather be described as humble and full of faith. Not even the two Soldier's Medals he's received for his acts of bravery have convinced him otherwise.
"I'm an ordinary guy who just happened to be in a situation," Zimmerman said. "It was my job."
His courageous deeds are chronicled in the book, A Time for Everything: The Kevin Zimmerman Story by Michael L. White. The 136-page narrative describes everything from Zimmerman's upbringing in Toledo to rescuing foreign soldiers in areas riddled with land mines.
Earlier this month, his book was accepted into the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
"I'm still thrown back by it," Zimmerman said of his most recent honor.
On Christmas day in 1995, Zimmerman found himself on a peace mission in war-torn Bosnia during his enlistment in the Army, where he was sent to treat Swedish soldiers who had been injured by land mines.
"There was only person at the site who spoke English and he said to me 'If you don't go up that mountain to get my men, they will die,'" Zimmerman recalled. "There were high winds and heavy rains. You could see land mines everywhere. At that time, my commander reminded me that I did not have to go. These were not American soldiers."
Three months later, Zimmerman again found himself in a high-risk situation. This time, three Russian soldiers had stepped on land mines. Saving their lives meant risking his own.
"None of this has to do with bravery," Zimmerman said. "When you put on that uniform, as a soldier, if we think we have a chance to preserve life, we're going to take it."
Zimmerman, 52, graduated from Central Catholic High school in 1978. He lives in San Antonio, where he works as the deputy program manager of the Automated Neurological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) program. He has five children, six grandchildren and is engaged to be married.
He spent 20-years in the Army, where he served in various positions, including combat medic, flight medic and senior medical flight instructor. He served in the Gulf War and on several other tours, including peace missions in Turkey, Poland, Northern Europe and Thailand.
Zimmerman retired from the Army in 2000 as a sergeant first class. He's still doing his part to help save lives by traveling the country advocating for educational advancements for veterans and military affiliates and is a donating a portion of his book sales to service member support organizations.
The first edition of A Time for Everything: The Kevin Zimmerman Story was released in 2005 without much fanfare. An updated version was released in 2012 and is now available for purchase at bookstores across the country, Amazon.com and on Zimmerman's Web site, atfekz.com.
Zimmerman said he came up with the idea to write his story after hearing someone ask 'Do miracles still happen today, as they did in the Bible?'
"I didn't think much of it at the time. Soldiers do what soldiers do," Zimmerman said of his actions. "Looking back on it, to be able to come out of both of those situations, it was nothing short of a miracle."
Zimmerman said he hopes his story serves as motivation to others.
"I felt people needed uplifting and I believe this book would provide some hope and inspiration," he said. "No matter what obstacles you face in life, if you don't quit, you can still achieve the desired goal."