Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2014

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Billy Ray Cyrus calls slain Nevada teacher ‘hero’

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus honored a Nevada teacher killed by a 12-year-old student in a schoolyard shooting last year, calling him a "true American hero."

Cyrus praised Michael Landsberry and presented a memorial plaque to his widow, Sharon, during a concert Saturday night in Incline Village, a Nevada community on north shore of Lake Tahoe.

Police say Landsberry, a 45-year-old ex-Marine, tried to talk the shooter into turning over the handgun before he was shot in the chest Oct. 21 at a middle school in the Reno suburb of Sparks. The student wounded two classmates before taking his life.

"Tonight we are here to honor a true American hero," Cyrus told a crowd of over 1,000. "Michael Landsberry made the ultimate sacrifice to save his students after serving three terms in Afghanistan."

Cyrus said Landsberry also represented the courage of the Vietnam veteran honored in his patriotic song, "Some Gave All." With a large photograph of Landsberry in the background and the math teacher's widow on stage, Cyrus led the crowd in singing the song.

Cyrus said he was moved by the story of Landsberry's actions in the school shooting and decided to recognize him when offered a chance to perform at Lake Tahoe.

He and his father, Ronald Ray Cyrus, made similar presentations honoring American heroes for more than a decade, and this marked the first time the country star has done so since his father's 2006 death.

"Just about every year, my dad and I would find an unsung hero and present them with a 'Some Gave All' award," he told The Associated Press. "I kind of play everything by ear, and I thought sometime when the time is right, I would love to recognize the sacrifice Michael made."

Sharon Landsberry thanked Cyrus and said his tribute moved her and their two daughters, Alisa Cook, 25, and Andrea Cook, 18. Alisa Cook also attended the concert, while Andrea Cook offered a videotaped message from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, where she serves in the Marines.

"We all love him today. ... He lives within all of us," Sharon Landsberry said of her husband.

Cyrus, who rose to fame in 1992 with the hit song "Achy Breaky Heart," also gave her a "financial gift." The amount was not undisclosed.

The singer is involved with a program called Do the Write Thing, which aims to reduce school violence by encouraging the public to alert authorities to potential problems at schools.

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