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RENO, Nev. — Sparks Middle School math teacher Michael Landsberry became known as a hero when he tried to stop a student with a gun, but his commander and colleagues at the Nevada Air National Guard said that his life exemplified that hero status long before the school shooting.
"Mike is a hero because he chose to serve his country as a Marine and as a Nevada Guardsman, but he was also a hero because he chose to serve his community in the most commendable way imaginable — as a teacher committed to the education of our youth," Col. Jeffrey Burkett, Nevada Air Guard's 152nd Airlift Wing commander, said Tuesday during a news conference at the base in Reno.
Landsberry, 45, confronted the seventh-grade student outside the school Monday and tried to get him to put the gun down, but the boy shot Landsberry in the chest. He died at the scene.
Burkett said Landsberry joined the Nevada Guard as an air transportation specialist after retiring from the Marine Corps in 1994. He was deployed overseas to Germany, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was highly decorated, with more than 25 awards for his service, Burkett said.
Landsberry had worked for the Washoe County School District since 2001 and started teaching math at the middle school in 2006, according to district officials. He also coached girls soccer and volleyball and boys basketball at Sparks High School.
"A person like Mr. Landsberry cannot be replaced," said Superintendent Pedro Martinez. "He was a beloved teacher and father, a great role model and an even better person. He will not be forgotten. He truly is a hero."
Landsberry's fellow guardsmen recalled their lost comrade as a man who dedicated himself to giving to his family, his community, his students and his country.
Chief Master Sgt. James Ross, who was deployed with Landsberry in Germany in 2004 and 2005, said he'll miss his colleague, especially his sense of humor and ability to share his heart and dreams.
"He liked to joke and talk," Ross said. "He was a great guy. He was a great airman, a good friend, a fantastic husband and father. He's going to be missed."
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Garrett said many of the guardsmen who worked with Landsberry often teased him about being a former Marine. The guardsmen wore their uniforms loose and comfortable, and Landsberry "gave me a hard time for being a sergeant duffel bag," Garrett said.
They would poke fun at Landsberry for his strict Marine style.
"He could never get the Marine out of him," Garrett said. "We always gave him a hard time about the Semper Fi and 'oorah.' He'd stand up to it, but he always had the most honorable-type character."
Master Sgt. Randy Moorhous said he knew Landsberry since 2001. When he learned that a teacher had been hurt, Moorhous said he knew it would be Landsberry.
"He was just that type of person. He was always somebody that would go and do whatever he could to help somebody," Moorhaus said. "He was very big on his students. That was something he loved to do, was teaching. He talked about his students all the time.
"I knew. I knew as soon as I heard."