WORTHINGTON - More than three years after saving his younger brother’s life in a house fire, an 11-year-old Brewster boy on Monday received rare recognition for his heroism.
Tyrrhien “TJ” Ostrem was presented with the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms - the Boy Scouts' most prestigious heroism award - during a special ceremony at the new home of Boy Scout Troop 134 at the former Prairie View Golf Links property. The Boy Scouts of America states the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, a national award, is presented to an individual who “has demonstrated unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.”
A Boy Scouts of America blog post from 2013 states that only 277 Honor Medals with Crossed Palms had been awarded since 1938, roughly four per year.
To merit consideration for the honor, TJ - among other requirements - had to submit a letter describing what transpired on May 26, 2015 in Hayfield, where he lived with his family at the time.
“I was sleeping upstairs and I heard my mom calling me to get out of the house,” TJ wrote. “I didn’t know what to do at first. I looked downstairs and it was pitch black. Then I heard my mom call again, so I ran downstairs and asked what was going on. She said that the house was on fire.
“I ran outside and then I remembered my little brother,” TJ continued. “So I ran back in the house and ran upstairs to wake up my brother. At first he didn’t wake up, so I gave him a little tug. Finally he woke up crying.
“I picked him up and carried him down the stairs and a neighbor carried him outside. We both finally reached outside to the fresh air. We went by ambulance to the hospital.”
The young brother TJ rescued, Avery, was just 4 years old at the time. Avery wrote a short letter of his own that - like his sibling’s - was on display Monday for attendees of the award ceremony to read.
“All I remember is my brother pulling my arm and dragging me across the rug,”’ Avery wrote. “Then he carried me down the stairs and gave me to the neighbor. We went to the hospital.”
Boy Scouts of America Sioux Council Commissioner Roger Hoyme was on hand Monday to present TJ with the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms. He read aloud a letter written by John Bacigalupo of Hayfield Community Ambulance, which responded to the May 2015 fire.
“With intrepid bravery, not withstanding the great risk to his personal safety and well being, Tyrrhien rushed back into the house to find and evacuate his younger brother Avery,” read Hoyme from Bacigalupo’s letter. “The decisive actions Tyrrhien took to reenter a burning structure and rescue Avery undoubtedly resulted in Avery’s life being spared. A few moments or minutes longer passing would have surely resulted in near fatal or fatal injuries to Avery.
“I, along with my fellow responders, are duty bound to place ourselves into harm’s way for others,” Hoyme continued reading. “Tyrrhien is not. Tyrrhien demonstrated uncharacteristic and uncommon bravery in a life threatening situation, to aid his brother. For those actions, Tyrrhien is certainly a hero in my book and worthy of recognition for his selfless actions and intrepid bravery.”