Minnetonka Boy Scout receives Medal of Merit for saving father's life

The Boy Scouts medal itself isn’t that flashy - a simple round medallion that says “for meritorious actions.”  But not many are given out.  And what it takes to get one is pretty astonishing.

Now, 18-year-old John Hiller of Minnetonka has one.  And he got it for saving his own father’s life.

It happened more than two years ago, a testament to how careful the process is of awarding the Boy Scouts Medal of Merit. John’s father, James, who'd had two strokes, began choking while eating dinner and within seconds lost consciousness.

James, for obvious reasons, remembers very little. 

“A little bit of that,” he said. “Then, I just remember falling over. Then, in the ambulance when I woke up.”
John says it’s a little hazy, but yet the image of his dad on the floor still seems pretty clear.

“Hearing a thud then running into the room and seeing your dad laying there, turning grey, his lips are blue, on the ground,” John said. “And your mom is on the phone with a 911 operator screaming, it’s a pretty terrifying sight.”

John’s mother, Jean remembers the day pretty clearly, too. She remembers how John sprung right into life-saving actions.

“He knew what to do, he started doing it,” she recalled.  “By the time the 911 dispatcher was telling me do this, do this, John was two steps ahead of her.”

They all credit the life-saving skills John learned all through scouting for being able to react so quickly and calmly. They all believe James would not be here today if not for what John learned as a Boy Scout.

On Thursday morning, in front of hundreds gathered to kick off the Northern Star Council’s annual fundraising drive at the Base Camp at Fort Snelling, John got the Medal of Merit that is awarded to few, “for using his scouting skills under extreme circumstances to do hero’s work.”

There are about 2.4 million kids currently in Scouts. Only about 100 of them get this medal each year.  You can’t apply for it, but need to be nominated by others through letters, which are carefully reviewed.

“It’s kind of this weird feeling because I earned the Medal of Merit,” said John. “Then half the people don’t know what I’m talking about, but then it’s the other part that anyone in Scouts knows it’s a very high honor.”