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Joseph Kappas stands tall and proud in front of Boy Scout Troop 78 Feb. 27 during a ceremony in the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School Technical Controllers Course classroom after receiving the Medal of Merit, which he earned by saving his mother’s life Jan. 5, 2008.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn

Combat Center Boy Scout saves mom, receives medal of merit

27 Feb 2009 | Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn

In the event of a medical emergency, standard procedure is to call emergency services, but what if the situation requires immediate attention?

When Joseph Kappas, a Boy Scout with Troop 78 on base, found his diabetic mother unresponsive Jan. 5, 2008, he knew he had to act.

“When I first saw her in the chair, I knew she wasn’t supposed to be like that,” said the 15-year-old Scout. “I was a little scared at first.”

Instead of panicking, Kappas said he recalled his Boy Scout first aid training and immediately checked for breathing and consciousness. Once he established his mother was conscious, he checked her blood glucose level and found it to be well below the normal rate.

Kappas then talked to his mother to get a response and called his father for help. His father advised him against giving his mother an insulin shot, since diabetics can become violent and paranoid during a low glucose episode. Instead, Kappas’ father told him to keep his mother calm, give her food and drink, and continue to monitor her blood glucose level.

Kappas fixed his mother a sandwich and a glass of milk to help raise her blood glucose level. After taking a bite of the sandwich and a sip of milk, his mother became paranoid and locked herself in her bedroom. Kappas was able to unlock the door, but his mother had barricaded herself in, so he couldn’t reach her.

Again, Kappas didn’t panic. Instead, he calmly spoke to his mother until he convinced her to let him in the room. From there, he was able to feed her some more of the sandwich and milk. When he checked her blood glucose level again, he noticed it had improved. Kappas stayed with his mother and cared for her until his father arrived.

Kappas’ decisive thinking and swift actions to save his mother’s life earned him the Medal of Merit, the third-highest award presented to Boy Scouts. He was recommended for the medal by the Boy Scouts of America National Court of Honor. The request was approved Sept. 11.

According to the Boy Scouts of America Web site,, the Medal of Merit may be awarded to a youth member or an adult leader who has performed some outstanding act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.

Kappas received the Medal of Merit Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. during a ceremony in the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School Technical Controllers Course classroom, building 1738. John Calbreath, the Sunrise District executive for the California Inland Empire Council, presented the medal to Kappas’ father, Master Sgt. Joseph Kappas, who pinned it on his son’s uniform.

“We’re proud – I think proud would be a good word,” said Kappas, who is the heavy section motor transport maintenance chief for Exercise Support Division. “He’s known what to do for a long time. We’re just glad he stayed calm, paid attention and took the right actions.”

Calbreath also spoke highly of the young Boy Scout, saying the steps he took to save his mother’s life epitomize what a Boy Scout is meant to be.

“On behalf of the California Inland Empire Council, I appreciate the fact that he is a role model for his fellow Scouts,” he said. “His character and his values are what scouting is all about.”
Despite being honored as a hero, Kappas is humbled by the award.

“I just feel better knowing that everything is back to normal,” he said.

Kappas and the rest of Boy Scout Troop 78 will continue their tradition of community service when they tackle an environmental service project at Lake Perris, Calif., later this month.

Students of the MLC 02-09 course are scheduled to graduate Feb. 17.

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