The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 24, 2013

Joplin man to receive Boy Scout honor for heroics in tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — The tornado had passed.

People emerged from a recessed doorway along a hallway at the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where Matt Hutchison had sheltered them.

“I’m an Eagle Scout,” Hutchison told them. “We’re going to be OK.”

He laughed when recounting the response during a recent phone conversation.

“I don’t know why that came out of my mouth,” he said.

On Saturday, Sept. 14, Hutchison will receive the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, the Boy Scouts’ highest lifesaving and meritorious action award “for unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save a life at extreme risk to self.”

Since 1924, 277 of the medals have been presented.

Hutchison was humble about the award but said he felt honored.

“That night, I did what anybody in my position would have done,” Hutchison said. “I couldn’t do anything but help.”

Hutchison, 26, of Joplin, had gone through Scouting throughout his boyhood,  achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He said he remains involved with the Boy Scouts as a volunteer.

 On May 22, 2011, he was employed as a food service worker at the hospital. He had been scheduled to be off that day, but he traded a shift with another worker.

He said he had been aware that the weather could get bad but that he didn’t keep up with the approaching storm. When the power went out, he didn’t know what was happening.

“I walked out into a hallway and was hit by the most intense wind I’ve ever felt inside a building,” he said. “I thought, this isn’t good.”

He said he saw a doorway that appeared to be a good place to take shelter. He got the attention of two women walking by and found co-workers and others who could take shelter in the recessed doorway.

“There were seven of us in the doorway, and I had my back to the hallway,” Hutchison said. “The tornado hit ,and people were screaming. I wasn’t super worried. Then the wind died down.”

He said some people in the hallway were injured by blowing debris, but he and those he was sheltering escaped without injury.

According to a Boy Scout statement, Hutchison assisted first-responders with rescue efforts after the tornado.

Hutchison said he thinks his experience and training as a Boy Scout helped him to remain calm and stay focused during the tornado.

Kourtney Grisham and her daughter, Emily, were among those assisted by Hutchison. They credit him with saving their lives.

“I can’t imagine the outcome of that afternoon without the heroic efforts of Matt,” Kourtney Grisham said. “Without hesitation, he took control and provided assurance and safety to save the lives of strangers.”

Bryon Haverstick, Boy Scouts of America district director, said Hutchison is deserving of the organization’s highest award for heroism.

“He did some extraordinary things, all because of the skills he had developed in Boy Scouts,” Haverstick said.

He said based on existing records, the national Boy Scouts organization thinks Hutchison is the only area Boy Scout to have ever received the medal.

“We are at a high level of pride for Matt, knowing that he grew up in the program and became an Eagle Scout,” Haverstick said. “He’s the epitome of what an Eagle Scout is.”

Court of Honor

The National Court of Honor ceremony, where Hutchison will be presented the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, will be held during the district’s Parent and Pal Campout beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Camp Crowder in Neosho.

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