DICKINSON, Texas - In the months since Hurricane Harvey, many people in our area have received honors for their bravery and kindness.
There’s one local hero who is not only young, but is now receiving top national honors for his courageous actions.
Virgil Smith will receive a Congressional Medal of Honor for rescuing 17 people in flood waters at his apartment complex in Dickinson on Aug. 26, 2017.
He used a spare air mattress to wade through 8 feet of water in the parking lot to help neighbors stuck in rising water.
Virgil stayed calm, while putting friends and strangers on the air mattress and bringing them to higher ground.
His mom says she could not be more proud of her son.
“He sacrificed his life to save others,” Lisa Wallace said.
One of the people Virgil saved was an elderly woman in a wheelchair and her puppy.
“We got her. We got the wheelchair, put it on the air mattress and we got the dog and put it in the cage,” Virgil said.
When asked why he put his own life at risk, he said, “I don’t like to see people drown, and I don’t like when people die.”
Virgil performed the rescues at 2 a.m. and continued them for 4 hours.
His mother says she was sacred to see him in the murky waters, but had faith that he would be OK.
“After the 17th person was saved, about 15 to 20 minutes later, we saw a baby alligator on the same path that he swim to save people,” Wallace said.
Virgil has already received numerous local awards, including one from the Hitchcock Chamber of Commerce.
“He’s a very shy young man, and that’s what makes it even more impressive, that he would risk his life,” said Monica Cantwell with the Hitchcock Chamber of Commerce.
Virgil attends school in Hitchcock. He is one of 5 Americans who will receive the 2018 Citizen Honors Award, selected by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The ceremony will be held March 23 in Arlington, Va.
Virgil and his mom are still displaced after Harvey and are staying with relatives.