OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Brian Hare has dozens of merit badges, but none may have proved more useful than the first one the Eagle Scout ever received for swimming.
The 16-year-old Olathe Northwest junior was in a raft with two leaders and three younger scouts in May on a rafting trip on the Elk River.
All were wearing life jackets when they struck a tree, throwing Hare and leader Srinivas Kotopali from the raft. Hare was able to grab back onto the raft and looked for his leader.
“I heard Mr. Kotopali screaming, 'Help me. I’m drowning. I can’t swim,'” Hare said.
“Brian’s going. Brian out of the boat. He’s moving," said Mark McGuire, the other scout leader in the boat.
“There wasn’t really a path. I just started running and trying to create my own path as fast as I could," Hare said.
He found his leader hanging onto a tree branch for dear life and searched for something to throw to him as McGuire ran behind.
"The only thing I could actually find at that point was a piece of barbed wire fence.”
“Brian monkeyed his way out onto the branch and was tossing it out for him to grab a hold of," McGuire said.
When that didn’t work, after 20 minutes Kotopali reportedly said his goodbyes to his family and said his prayers and let go.
“I’m just racing through my mind. I’m going to have to jump in, so I just jump in and start swimming as fast as I can down to him," Hare said.
Hare was able to pull his leader to safety and Monday night received the Boy Scouts of America’s rare National Honor Medal.
“I just wanted to see him back here alive. That’s all it really meant to me," Hare said.
Even if Hare doesn’t consider himself a hero, the other leader who witnessed his bravery does.
“Brian was a hero that day. Brian really stepped up to the plate. He did all of the right things," McGuire said.
On Monday night, the Boy Scouts of America showed their appreciation for Hare's brave action by bestowing a rare award: the National Honor Medal.