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UNSUNG HEROES: The West Point Cadet Who Died Saving A Drowning Civilian
The Fourth of July was supposed to be Cadet Tom Surdyke’s 19th birthday. Instead, on that day, his family said their goodbyes and buried him at West Point, where the young hero will rest forever.
He had just finished his first year at the military academy, and between air assault and cadet field training, the Missouri native decided to visit fellow cadet James Crimmins on Long Island, New York.
What should have been a relaxing vacation on Cooper’s Beach turned tragic when a riptide pulled a swimmer out to sea, and nearly drowned him on June 24, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Without a thought for himself, Surdyke went after the boy — a friend he had made that day — trying to keep him afloat as Crimmins swam to shore to call 911.
Surdyke managed to prop the swimmer up until a paddle boarder was able hoist the civilian out of the water. However, he succumbed to exhaustion from battling the current, and ingested a heavy amount of water.
Other beachgoers were finally able to pull Surdyke from the water, but he had lost consciousness. Crimmins performed CPR. Finally, the paramedics arrived and took him to a local hospital, but his heart stopped at least three times.
His parents, Tim and Janice, were called and immediately flew to New York. Surdyke was on life support for four days, but passed away on June 28.
For his heroism, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal — the highest valor award given by the Army in non-combat situations.
“Cadet Surdyke epitomized the values of duty, honor, country in all that he did,” Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the academy superintendent at West Point, wrote in a statement.
His parents, three sisters, and his fellow classmates attended the funeral at his would-be alma mater. He was buried among Army legends like Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., Winfield Scott, and Maj. Gen. Dent Grant.
According a local Kansas paper, Surdyke wrote in his West Point application, “I want to dedicate my life to serve and protect those who are not able to do so for themselves.”
Even in death, he carried on that dream. In addition to saving the swimmer’s life, Surdyke was also an organ donor.
“He just quietly always did what was right. And at the same time was able to make his friends or anybody around him feel good about what they were doing and what he was trying to do,” Surdyke’s father told Army Times.
A GoFundMe was created to establish a scholarship for students with strong leadership qualities in his honor.
The command chief of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was removed from his position last month after his chain of command received evidence he disrespected his subordinates.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
The "suck it up and drive on" mentality permeated our years in the U.S. military and often led us to delay getting both physical and mental health care. As veterans, we now understand that engaging in effective care enables us not just to survive but to thrive. Crucially, the path to mental wellness, like any serious journey, isn't accomplished in a day — and just because you need additional or recurring mental health care doesn't mean your initial treatment failed.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the security alliance's allies to maintain and strengthen their "unity," saying the organization is "the only guarantor of European and transatlantic security."
Stoltenberg told reporters on November 19 that NATO "has only grown stronger over the last 70 years" despite "differences" among the allies on issues such as trade, climate, the Iran nuclear deal, and the situation in northeastern Syria.
He was speaking at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels on the eve of a NATO foreign ministers meeting aimed at finalizing preparations for next month's summit in London.
WASHINGTON — More than $35 million of the roughly $400 million in aid to Ukraine that President Donald Trump delayed, sparking the impeachment inquiry, has not been released to the country, according to a Pentagon spending document obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Instead, the defense funding for Ukraine remains in U.S. accounts, according to the document. It's not clear why the money hasn't been released, and members of Congress are demanding answers.