George Rogers High School student Matthew Sturgill was honored with the highest medal a Junior ROTCÃ?Â¿cadet can earn on Friday.
Last summer, Sturgill was swimming and jet skiing with his family at Fort Boonesborough State Park when he saw a struggling swimmer. The man was going under, but his family and friends thought he was just playing a joke.
Sturgill and his stepfather, Joseph Wallace, quickly realized that the man was in real trouble and started swimming toward him.
“It was really just a matter of luck that IÃ?Â¿was on the beach at that time,” Sturgill said.
He was the first one to reach the drowning man and was able to pull him up to the surface. There was a boat nearby, and another stranger helped get the man out of the water. Although he had been unconscious, the rescued man recovered on the boat.
Sturgill’s mother, Angie Wallace, recalled watching her son’s rescue effort.
“I would expect for him to, just because you want to help somebody ... but IÃ?Â¿was scared to death for Matthew,”Ã?Â¿Wallace said.
For Sturgill, though, there was no time to be scared.
“It was all just adrenaline. I really didn’t have time to feel anything,” he said.
After the rescue, a woman who was on the boat that helped in the rescue wrote a letter to Sturgill’s JROTCÃ?Â¿instructors. When Dave Alexander, senior Army instructor and a retired Army colonel, learned of his student’s bravery, he nominated him for the Medal of Heroism. Although Alexander has only been instructing at GRC for two years, he believes Sturgill is the only student from the school ever to win the award.
“It’s incredible. The whole story behind it is just amazing,” Alexander said.
The instructor presented Sturgill the award at a ceremony at the school. Sturgill’s family, fellow ROTCÃ?Â¿cadets and Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner all were present.
“He’s done a lot of things, and we’re very proud of him,” Wallace said.
In addition the Medal of Heroism, Sturgill recently became a company commander, in charge of about 15 other students, and instructs freshman JROTCÃ?Â¿students. He hopes to have a career in the military after graduation next year.
Contact Rachel Parsons at email@example.com.