“Water rushed over Greg’s face and he panicked. I tried to help him, but he fought me because he was scared. We gave him a board to hang onto, but it gave away. I grabbed him, but he pulled me under with him. When we came up, I grabbed his hair and started for shore, but he threw his arms around my neck and wouldn’t let go.
“Finally I broke the hold and again started working him to shore. He struggled all the way. I was tired, but I knew I had to keep trying. The water was deep—I never touched bottom in the middle. Just as I reached shore, a cramp set in my leg and I couldn’t move. But we had made it, and were both okay.”
What may sound like a passage from a pioneer journal describing the crossing of the Mississippi is actually 17-year-old Daniel Kite’s description of how he rescued a sixth-grader from the Weber River near Ogden, Utah. Dan, a member of Troop 38, Hooper First Ward, Hooper Utah Stake, was awarded a Certificate for Heroism by the Boy Scouts of America.
But Dan wasn’t alone in receiving the honor. When the National Court of Honor announced recipients of recognition for heroic action last October, there were ten Latter-day Saint Scouts and leaders among the 216 honored.
Ten-year-old Kristin E. Hofmeister received the highest award of any of the LDS Scouts. He was awarded an Honor Medal, which is given for “unusual heroism in saving or attempting to save life at the risk of [his] own.” Kristin rescued his cousin, who had fallen through ice into six feet of chilling water. He remembered the importance of lying flat on the ice so it would not crack as he worked his way to the edge of the water.
“I feel the Lord gave me more strength than I usually have so I could pull him out,” Kristin said. “He is the same age I am, but he seemed to come out easily, although I normally couldn’t have lifted him like that.” Kristin is in Pack 108, Honeyville Ward, Brigham City Utah North Stake.
Several other Latter-day Saints received Medals of Merit, awarded to “Scouts who perform an outstanding service of an exceptional character, practicing Scout skills and ideals, but not necessarily involving risk of life.”
A. Kenneth Crockett, a Scoutmaster, administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a 60-year-old man who collapsed in a bank lobby. Thanks to Brother Crockett’s efforts, the man began breathing again before the ambulance arrived. “Any one of the 20 people in the bank at the time could have done what I did,” Brother Crockett said, “but they were waiting for someone else to act.” He is a member of the Globe First Ward, Globe Arizona Stake, and was at the time Scoutmaster of Troop 3. He has since been released and is presently serving on the stake high council.
Craig Galbasini, 11, saved his one-year-old brother Ryan from drowning when Ryan tipped his walker upside down into a swimming pool. “I assume the Lord was watching out for Ryan, and I was there to help him,” Craig said. Active in the Scottsdale Fourth Ward, Scottsdale Arizona Stake, Craig is a member of Pack 418.
Lee W. Johnson, who was at the time Cubmaster of Pack 218, rescued his brother from underneath a fallen haystack. “My brother was covered by a haystack four feet deep and about 20 feet square. Where do you dig? In my mind a voice said, ‘Over here.’ I dug to within six inches of my unconscious brother, and the voice said, ‘Throw the pitch fork away.’ And there he was. You have to give somebody besides myself credit for something like that.” Brother Johnson is in the Benson Ward, Benson Utah Stake.
Michael P. Poppleton, 10, saved his brother Chris’s life by holding the youngster’s arm and head above swift-flowing water in an irrigation culvert until additional help came. “My little brother’s life was in my hands,” Mike said. “I did what I had to to save him.” Mike is in Pack 221 and is a member of the Wellsville Third Ward, Logan Utah Stake.
Michael J. Parry, 17, of Orem, Utah, applied direct pressure to a laceration on his sister’s arm, controlling bleeding until paramedics came. “It was frightening to see my sister lying hurt and to know she could die. I kept praying she would be all right, and when I heard the ambulance, I had a burning sensation in my heart that told me she would be okay. I think the Lord was directing me the whole time in order to save her life.” Mike is in the Orem 47th Ward, Orem Utah Windsor Stake, and is a member of Post 1447.
Timothy Stewart, 14, rescued his brother when he fell through ice on a pond. “I got down on the ice and crawled about nine feet from the shore. The ice broke under me just as I reached him. I got him out, but broke through the ice two more times before we got to shore,” Tim said. Tim is a member of the Newton Branch, Wichita Kansas Stake, and belongs to Troop 328.
Brent Robinson rescued a woman’s son who was stranded on a cliff. “A lady knocked at our door and said her son was trapped. We got a rope, and I climbed to where he was stranded. I couldn’t get him down from below the cliff, so I came down to him from above and then pulled him up with the rope,” Brent said. Brent, 16, is from Post 363, Kanab Third Ward, Kanab Utah Stake.
David Worthington, 11, saved a friend who was drowning. A member of the Washington Second Ward, St. George Utah East Stake, and (at the time) of Pack 416, David reacted mostly on instinct reinforced with good Scout training. “I knew I was supposed to help someone in trouble,” he said. He is now a Tenderfoot in Troop 416.
In addition to the LDS recipients, there was at least one Scout recognized who came from an LDS-sponsored troop but who is not a member of the Church. John C. Eisenhart received a Medal of Merit for saving his grandfather’s life when the grandfather fell from a six-foot ladder and fractured his skull. John used a handkerchief compress to stop the bleeding, and then called an emergency squad. The wound required 61 stitches. “I was glad that I had had my Boy Scout first aid training,” John said. He is senior patrol leader of Troop 51, Newark Ward, Columbus Ohio East Stake.
All of the Scouts had advice to offer to others who might find themselves in emergencies. “I would never have thought it would happen to me,” Mike Parry said. “I think people should be ready for things like this and get proper training in advance because things like this will happen.”
Brent advised hikers to always travel with a partner and not to take shortcuts. “Stay on the trail or you’ll get in trouble,” he said. Daniel warned swimmers to know the water they’re swimming in and not to swim in conditions beyond their capability. Kristin advised everyone to learn how to swim and to become familiar with lifesaving techniques. Brother Crockett advised those who find themselves in an emergency to do something, rather than just watch, which complemented Brother Johnson’s advice to “be quick and alert, but think things out before you act. Keep calm and don’t panic. Move as quickly as possible and listen for guidance from the Lord.” Mike Poppleton said Scouts should pay attention during classes on lifesaving techniques so that when an emergency does arise, they’ll be able to think of what to do. And the entire group agreed that proper training is vital and that people should be careful about what they do if they have had no training.
Most of the group agreed that their rescue efforts had been a spiritual experience for them. “At the time I acted only on instinct, but since then I have thought how great it is that I was able to save one of Heavenly Father’s sons,” Kristin said. Dan said he felt the Lord helped him “keep a straight head,” and gave him that “additional strength needed to get to shore before the cramp set in.”
“I found the experience to be very humbling,” Brother Crockett said. “I feel that through the Church programs the Lord provides for us, including Scouting, that I was prepared to act in this emergency.” Mike Parry said, “It strengthened my testimony to know that the Lord helped me to be in the right place at the right time.”
But perhaps it was Brother Johnson who summed up the most common sentiment: “It was a spiritual experience,” he said, “but I wouldn’t want another one of this kind.”
Editor’s note: Since the 1978 awards, the New Era has learned of one additional LDS Scout who has received national attention for his heroism. Eleven-year-old Roger Walters, a member of Troop 839, which is sponsored by the Union 18th Ward, Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake, was cited for saving the life of his five-year-old sister Tanya, who fell into deep water at a reservoir. He was awarded the Medal for Heroism, an award similar to those mentioned above.