September 6th, 2006 was a beautiful day on the Tennessee River. The water was warm, calm and perfect for water skiing.
Joey Monje, 11, his mom Carrie and younger brother Josh were visiting Joey's dad Alex, an army reservist and operating room nurse on leave in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. "We were just having fun - a regular day," said Joey.
At that time, Joey was just starting out in the world of Boy Scouts as a Tenderfoot. And it was his scout training, even at that early stage, which would forever change his life and save another in those warm Tennessee River waters that perfect September afternoon. "I heard a lot of splashing and all and I look out and saw this man holding onto a buoy," said Joey.
A man, twice Joey's size was struggling to stay afloat and panicking. Joey's scout training kicked in. "I just grabbed this little white preserver thing required for boats, and I threw it out to him very fast," Joey said
That quick thinking helped but it wasn't enough. The man was too heavy for the life preserver Joey tossed so again, Joey reacted. "I said to my dad, I'm going to jump in, he told me not to and I should have known that so I brought out a life jacket to him and then, we have this inner tube that we have fun on, and I pulled it out to him so he could get on top but he just grabbed on and I pulled him to shore," Joey said.
It was that quick thinking that saved the strangers life.
I asked Joey, "What did this guy say to you after you saved his life?" Joey replied, "Thank you, I wouldn't have made it without you."
I asked, "Do you still keep in touch with him?" Joey said, "No."
In the haste of the situation, neither Joey nor the rest of the Monje family got the man's name. They came out to the river that day not to save a life but to have a good time. However Joey did save a life a life that day and for it he got the second highest honor a scout can receive, the Medal of Honor, from Texas state senator Robert Duncan.
In the wake of Joey's experience he learned a few things if he ever faces the same situation again. "I think I'd do it better the next time. I wanted to jump out there but it wouldn't be a smart idea. I learned that they're panicking. they'd probably try to grab onto you and stand on you, you'll be under water and I learned better not to try and go out there - save my own life and theirs," he said.
Joey hasn't been back to the Tennessee River since he saved the stranger's life. But he wants to go back. Not to relive his experience but to do what a 13-year-old boy should be doing on a river with his family. "I'll mainly be having fun there but I'll look at it - have this odd pause and stuff - and then get back to playing again, just like it happened that day."
Joey is just one of five people being profiled this week on NewsChannel 11 leading up to September 11th when they will be recognized at a special Red Cross Champions breakfast hosted by NewsChannel 11's very own, Karin McCay and Abner Euresti.
|Lubbock Red Cross|