Heroes and happy stories can be tough to find nowadays. Of late, we've been treated to the admitted doping of tarnished cycling champ Lance Armstrong. We've seen the tragic story of a true hero, Newtown, Conn., teacher Victoria Soto, who died protecting her young students during the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. However, Morristown boasts a story that spotlights a bona fide hero and provides a happy ending.
Next Monday, a Morristown High sophomore will receive the Boy Scouts of America's Scouting's Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, which is awarded for “unusual heroism or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.”
The prize was first given in 1938, and only 277 have been awarded the medal since then. The 278th will go to 15-year-old William Aguayo, who saved his little brother's life last summer during a family vacation to Ecuador.
The youngster, of course, dismisses any praise, saying, “Anyone would have tried to save their brother.”
His grandfather, Gordon G. Andrew, said he disagrees.
"This is not only a story about brotherly love and strength of family, it is also about 'being prepared,' and is a tribute to the personal values and training that Scouting instills," Andrew said. "Will’s selfless act defines the true meaning of what an American hero is."
In the boy's own written account of the story, he describes riding boogie boards in the waters of the Pacific Ocean with his brother Romeo, their older sister and a friend. Their parents and other family members, Will said, were sitting on the Ecuadoran beach.
He recalled noticing the waves suddenly increasing in size.
As the waves grew larger, my brother and I were pulled further and further away from the shore, and the water was well over our heads in depth. Then, we encountered one large wave which was the first of many to come. As soon as Romeo and I rose out of the water from under the first large wave, he was calling for me to help him, and appeared to be very scared. I was not yet worried about our safety and did not think much of it. But then another larger wave came crashing over us. When we came up after that more powerful wave, Romeo and I had lost our boogie boards and I had lost sight of my sister and her friend.
This was serious, Will realized. And it was far from over.
... The waves kept coming and I was very tired, but I continued to pull Romeo toward the shore by his shirt and arm. A couple of times the waves pulled us apart and I needed to find him and grab him each time. Finally, we were close enough where we could stand ... I ran up the beach and got my parents to help him out of the water, because he was too tired to walk. After making it onto the shore I realized my sister and her friend where still in the water.They were both lucky they still had their boogie boards and made it back to shore shortly after that.
The boys' grandfather could not be more proud of his grandsons, whom he describes as "wonderful kids."
"Although Will is the recognized hero in this incident, Romeo was also very courageous," said Gordon Andrew. "He was brave enough to ask for help and also not to panic, which has caused many experienced swimmers to drown in similar situations.
"They are both heroes."