When someone says "national hero," visions of soldiers, fire fighters and police officers come to mind.
The thought of a middle school student probably doesn't even spark a glimmer in most people's minds, but that's just who Shane Krhovsky of O'Hara is -- a cool, quick-thinking Boy Scout who saved his father's life during a fishing trip in July 2011.
For his deed, the Boys Scouts of America recently honored the O'Hara Township Scout with a National Heroism Award. According to the BSA, the award "may be awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at minimum risk to self."
Shane, a member of Troop 173 in Etna, spoke humbly of his achievement, saying it was just something he learned in the scouts that he applied to real life.
Charlie Huse, advisor for the advancement committee for the Laurel Highlands Council of the BSA, which encompasses most of Western Pennsylvania, said the medal he presented to Shane is a rare honor.
Shane is only the third scout to receive the award in the 24 years Mr. Huse has been with the organization.
A medal was presented to Shane on Sept. 18 in front of friends and family, including his twin brother Seth.
Shane's mother, Erin Krhovsky, said her 13-year-old son and his father were at the Kinzua Reservoir for a weekend fishing trip. They headed out on their 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with a 15-horsepower outboard motor. Shane was sitting in the front of the boat while his father steered with the tiller while sitting in the back.
They were about 225 feet from shore, trolling about 25 miles per hour in 60 feet of water when the motor struck something under the water, sharply turning the tiller into Mr. Krhovsky with such force that it threw him out of the boat.
Mr. Krhobsky who was wearing a life jacket was bobbing in the water when the circling boat with Shane still seated inside headed straight for him.
"In an effort to prevent the propeller from hitting me, I stuck my arms out. It just missed me by inches," Mr. Krhobsky said. "The boat was turning in very fast circles, and I worried that the boat would run me over or the prop would hit me."
Shane crawled to the back of the boat and pushed the button to shutoff the outboard motor and his father swam to the boat.
Shane helped his father climb aboard by counterbalancing the boat, a skill he learned just weeks before on the same lake, practicing canoeing safety with his twin brother Seth in preparation for future merit badge requirements, Mr. Krhobsky said.
Once aboard, the two found proof of the amount of force that threw Mr. Krhovsky overboard. The armchair he has been sitting in while he steered had been ripped off the bench and thrown overboard as well.
"We were both very fortunate that no one was injured or killed," Mr. Krhovsky said.
On the boat ride back to their camp, Mr. Krhovsky made sure he was wearing the tether strap from the kill switch -- the one safety measure he had overlooked in the morning.
"I was very elated on how my son reacted in this potentially dangerous situation," Mr. Krhovsku said. "Shane kept his cool and maneuvered to the rear of the boat, which was, at that time, the worst place to be because of the centrifugal forces at play. I was one very proud dad."
His mother proudly said, "It was amazing that Shane was able to keep calm. We were very impressed with his quick thinking."
The young hero just said, "I just got through the initial shock and stopped the boat."
Mr. Krhobsky said scouting had played a very important role in training his son to not only to save his father's life, but to safeguard his own life as well.
Mr. Krhovsky, a former Cub Scout leader who now serves as a committee member for his sons' Boy Scout troop, recounted the story to the other leaders when Troop 173 next met at the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Etna.
He and Troop 173 leaders Denny Haramic and Earl Fugh made sure Shane was agreeable to telling his tale to the local council. "Yeah, I guess," Shane said and then began the year-long process of presenting Shane's achievements for review by first the Laurel Highlands Council, then the national leadership.
The proud parents and twin brother Seth were there when the rare gold medal was pinned above Shane's left breast pocket. "I think the Scouts builds such great character for kids," Mrs. Krhovsky said.
"Now it's in my keepsakes," Shane said. He plans to continue on the road through scouting to earn his life and Eagle Scout awards.
Rita Michel, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.