By STEVEN NALLEY
The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is, “Be Prepared.”
Allen McBroom, scoutmaster with Starkville’s BSA Troop 45, said someone once asked BSA founder Robert Baden-Powell, “Be prepared for what?” The founder’s response, McBroom said, was, “Why, for just any old thing.”
At 16 years old, Troop 45 Life Scout Nicholas Sellars was prepared enough to use first aid to save his 18-year-old brother Christopher Sellars from a potentially lethal gunshot wound. For this act, Nicholas will be awarded BSA’s National Medal of Merit Monday at 6:45 p.m. at First United Methodist Church.
Many would call it heroism, but Nicholas has said often it wasn’t, even in his letter of application for the medal.
“Scouting has taught me to have a cool head in an emergency, and that’s what I have done,” Nicholas said in his letter. “I don’t think of myself as a hero. I just did what any scout would have done.”
McBroom said Nick did not tell his troop about the incident. Instead, he said, Christopher told them about it some time afterward, asking to address the troop at the close of a meeting.
“When his turn came, Christopher told the Scout troop what had happened to him, how his brother had immediately come to his aid, and used his training to turn a bad situation into a manageable situation,” McBroom said. “When Christopher told us all how proud he was of his brother, and how thankful he was that Nick had remembered his Scout training, we knew we were witnessing a wonderful testimony to the importance of being prepared.”
His mother, Lisa Sellars, said Nicholas does not like the extra attention.
“He’s just said, ‘I just did what I was supposed to do,’ and that’s right,” she said. “I’m 50 years old, and I panicked. At his age especially, I’m very proud of him.”
Lisa was at her home with Nicholas and Christopher when Christopher was wounded. It was an accident, Lisa said, brought on as Christopher was cleaning his own pistol. She said Christopher loaded the gun as he reassembled it, believing he had finished the cleaning.
When he remembered that he still needed to oil it, she said, he forgot he had loaded it. When he tried to disassemble the gun again, she said, it discharged.
“I heard Christopher say, ‘I just shot myself,’ and Nicholas was in there before I could get up the steps,” Lisa said. “We are a Boy Scout family; Christopher, in fact, is an Eagle Scout. We’ve had lots and lots of CPR training.
I probably had a lot more CPR training than Nicholas, but I was flipping out. I could not get it together, and Nicholas did not panic.”
The bullet had gone through Christopher’s palm and his thigh. McBroom said it narrowly missed Christopher’s femoral artery. Lisa said Christopher would occasionally come into and out of consciousness. Meanwhile, she said, Nicholas kept pressure on the wound, elevated Christopher’s feet, kept Christopher calm, and tied something around the top of the thigh to stop the bleeding. Nicholas said the thigh was his top priority.
“His hand wasn’t a big deal,” Nicholas said. “You won’t bleed to death out of that, but you definitely will through your thigh.”
Nicholas said all scouts are required to learn the first aid techniques he used, and he is also certified by the Red Cross for First Aid. The Red Cross’s class only took 6-7 hours, he said, and at the time, he couldn’t think of a good reason not to take time out for it. After all, he said, he could need it someday.
However, Nicholas said he wasn’t thinking about where he learned his techniques when he used them on Christopher. He was worried, he said, but he didn’t let that affect him.
“You can’t think about what could happen while it’s going on,” Nicholas said. “You just have to block that out and think clearly about what you’re supposed to do. I didn’t think about what I needed to do, I just knew what I had to do. It was just muscle memory.”
McBroom said Nicholas also coordinated the rest of his family’s response. He said Nicholas instructed his younger sister, Victoria, to call 911 and then get his father, Perry, who was a quarter mile away at the time. Then Nicholas instructed his mother to go outside to watch for and flag down the ambulance, McBroom said.
Lisa said she felt sorry that Victoria had to witness the incident.
“Bless her heart,” Lisa said, “She was 12 at the time.”
McBroom said the emergency management team arrived to find Christopher still conscious and in good spirits, and the head of team, fire chief Wade Howell, joined Nicholas’s family in helping Nicholas apply for the award. They all wrote letters to BSA, he said, detailing the event and explaining why Nicholas deserved the award.
The National Medal of Merit is one of Scouting’s highest honors, McBroom said.
“I am aware of only two other Scouts in our ten-county council who have been so honored in the last 30 years,” McBroom said. “This medal isn’t earned, as it isn’t something a Scout can work toward. It is an honor that is bestowed by the National Council for exemplifying the training and ideals of Scouting in the service of others. It is awarded rarely, and not all submissions for the honor are approved.”
Despite his humility, Nicholas said he was happy for the recognition.
“It’s an honor to be on so short of a list,” Nicholas said. “I appreciate it, of course, but I’m not big on the attention.”
As for his future career, Nicholas said, he wants to save more lives as part of the U.S. military. He wants to join next year or his senior year, he said, and he wants to be a Marine.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the military,” Nicholas said. “I want to protect the country and just give back to it for what it gives to everybody.”
That’s because, for Nicholas, giving back isn’t a decision. It’s a lifestyle.
“It’s what we need to do,” Nicholas said. “It’s not like, ‘If you feel like helping someone, you can do it.’ The Scout law says to help other people at all times. It’s not just whenever you feel like it.”