Sebastian sea scout Chris Johnson was taken completely by surprise June 22, during the Sea Scout Ship 501 Bridge of Honor awards ceremony, when he was called forward to receive what is among the highest awards in Scouting, the Lifesaving Award.
The award was presented before a gathering of about 50 fellow-scouts, family, friends, and Sebastian and out-of-town dignitaries at the Sebastian Community Center.
For the formal ceremony, the Community Center became the “ship,” with a proper mast, officers seated behind it on “the bridge,” and the flags of the various units present. As each dignitary was piped aboard, the ship’s bell was rung.
Those in attendance included Gulf Stream Boy Scout Council Executive Director Jeff Isaac from Palm Beach Gardens; American Legion Department of Florida Department Commander Jay Conti Sr. from Orlando; Sebastian Mayor Bob McPartlan, accompanied by his twin 3 ½-year-old daughters Rylee and Rehgan; Sebastian Councilwoman Andrea Coy; and Sebastian Police Chief Michelle Morris.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Wayne Newland, Commander of Sebastian American Legion Post 189, and skipper of Sea Scout Ship 501, announced the highlight of the evening, a Boy Scouts of America National Court of Honor, and asked Johnson to come forward. Until that moment, the 18-year-old scout had not known he was to be so honored.
Johnson was attending the Sea Scout Regatta in Tampa April 27, 2014, and was aboard a sailboat with several others when he saw that a fellow-scout, 16-year-old Yeshuah Clark of Ship 404, Fort Pierce, had jumped into the water and was struggling.
Johnson grabbed a life preserver, made his way out to Clark and was able to bring him safely to shore. It was learned that Clark had sustained an injury to his right leg as he entered the water.
McPartlan read a proclamation from the city honoring Johnson for his lifesaving effort. Isaac told the gathering the award was “a really big deal,” and extremely rare. “He is truly a hero,” said Newland. Chief Morris congratulated Johnson “on behalf of all first responders. Johnson’s very proud parents are Amy and Greg Johnson.