This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.
Tradition says to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary with a ruby.
But when Marlys and Jerry Berg reached 40 years of marriage in November 2019, they celebrated with something even more precious: the strangers who saved their lives.
On Nov. 1, 2018, Troop 127 Life Scout Dutch Bishton and his mom, Debbie, were the first on the scene of a three-vehicle accident in the Texas panhandle. What happened next, Marlys says, likely saved her life.
In a letter to the BSA’s Pikes Peak Council, Marlys writes that “without Debbie and Dutch’s fast thinking and stopping, I might not have made it to tell this story.”
Exactly one year later, the Bergs held a family reunion and party to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
“My mom and dad and I were invited to celebrate with them,” Dutch says. “That was my true reward. Seeing them celebrate their wedding anniversary after witnessing that day means so much more than any medal or honor.”
Even so, the Pikes Peak Council honored Dutch and Debbie with the National Certificate of Merit. It’s a fancy piece of paper, sure, but it tells the story of a Scout and his mom being incredibly brave, helpful and kind.
“As for my son, I could not be more proud,” says Greg Bishton, Dutch’s dad. “He is truly my hero. And as for my wife, she is an incredible mom, wife and best friend. I love them both so very much.”
First on the scene
The drive from the Bishton home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to their relatives in Odessa, Texas, takes about 10 hours. Dutch and Debbie got an early start, pulling out at 6 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2018.
They were making excellent time when they pulled into Dalhart, Texas, to stop for lunch at a pizza buffet.
“We were in no hurry,” Dutch says. “Our family was not expecting us until later in the day.”
After lunch, they got back onto the road toward Odessa, passing cattle ranches and farms at the posted speed limit of 70 mph. Near Hereford, about 45 minutes southwest of Amarillo, Dutch and Debbie pulled up to a “horrific accident,” Dutch says. A semitractor-trailer had collided with an SUV and a pickup. It looked like the accident had happened just moments earlier.
Realizing they were the first people who stopped to help, Debbie and Dutch got to work.
“I found my phone and called 911,” Dutch says. “I spoke with the operator for about three minutes, describing the accident and location.”
Dutch tried to describe his exact location based on signage nearby, but the operator said they had pinged Dutch’s location using his cellphone. They knew just where he was.
Comfort and aid
While Dutch was on the phone, Debbie talked to Marlys, the passenger of the SUV, which had come to rest on its side.
“I felt a strong need to help,” Debbie says. “An urge. When someone is in need of help, you help.”
Dutch and his mom spent the next few minutes providing comfort and aid to Marlys while two off-duty paramedics assisted others in getting the driver, Jerry, out of the SUV.
The off-duty paramedics then switched places with Dutch and Debbie. The off-duty paramedics worked on treating Marlys, who was still trapped and would need a hydraulic rescue tool to be extracted.
While that happened, Dutch and Debbie went to Jerry, who was then out of the vehicle and on the ground. Debbie immobilized Jerry’s head, and Dutch and Debbie spent the next 20 minutes talking to Jerry.
“My mom and I kept the driver awake by asking him a lot of questions,” Dutch says. “He told us how they were going to visit his son in Odessa. He told us everything about his family.”
When the fire department showed up, 40 minutes had passed since Dutch called 911.
“The first fireman asked us if we were OK still taking care of the driver,” Dutch says. “And I replied, ‘We got this.'”
(Side note: It’s important to do as first responders say, right away. Sometimes trying to help can interfere with a first responder trying to do their job.)
Before long, another first responder took over. For the first time since they had arrived, Dutch and Debbie were able to step back to assess the entire scene.
They saw mangled vehicles. They saw a rescue helicopter and ambulances. They saw fire trucks and police cars.
They watched as Marlys was removed from the car and airlifted to Amarillo.
“I hugged my mom so tight at that moment, because we were not sure she was going to make it,” Dutch says.
Once they were sure they could do no more, Dutch and Debbie got back on the road south. They were on edge all weekend, unable to shake what they had seen.
When they got back to Colorado a few days later, Debbie went on Facebook to try to find the Berg family. From talking to Jerry, she knew the name of the couple’s son and found his profile.
Debbie told the son about their role in the accident. The son was able to tell Debbie about the condition of the Berg family.
Jerry had a concussion and needed stitches. To this day, he still doesn’t remember the accident. Marlys spent two months in the hospital before being released to recover at home.
A year after the accident, Dutch and Debbie received recognition from the council. But the real reward was helping Jerry and Marlys celebrate 40 years of marriage.
“It’s not about any awards,” Dutch says. “It’s about knowing you did the right thing. It’s knowing you helped those in need. Helping others is more gratifying than any award.”
The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy Scouting — and life — safely. Here are some Health & Safety resources worth sharing:
Share your Unsung Heroes story
Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.
Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:
- Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
- Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
- Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
- Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.