11-year-old boy given medal for saving family (video)
Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:12 a.m.
Leo "Willy" Click Jr. doesn't consider himself a hero.
He considers the fearless reaction to help save the lives of his family trapped inside a burning vehicle to be just ordinary, his mother said.
Coming home from a fishing trip in Port Aransas, the family was involved in a head-on collision on state Highway 35 that killed two and left several injured - and Willy remembers it all.
His dad yelled.
The impact was shocking. "And that's when the truck started flipping," his mother, Molly January, cried.
"He was awake the entire accident."
When the silver Dodge pickup came to rest, Willy tried to wake his family, but he was the only one conscious.
Three months later and he is still not ready to talk about it. But during the past couple of months, his mother has been able to piece together what happened.
He was alone.
He was injured.
He was 11 years old.
Despite a third-degree seatbelt burn and cuts all over his body, Willy pushed his pain aside and saved the lives of his sister, cousin, father and his father's girlfriend.
The American Legion Post 166 honored Willy for his gallant actions Tuesday with the Medal of Heroism, a first for the post.
"We are here to honor a real-life hero," Commander John Tait said from the stage inside the American Legion Hall, and as events from the Aug. 18 crash were recalled, Willy ran to the arms of his stepfather and sunk into his grasp.
When the vehicle came to rest in a ditch, Willy noticed his younger sister was terribly injured.
She was bleeding, so he took off his T-shirt and wrapped it around her head wound.
The bone above his sister's eye had broken and was piercing her brain. The 9-year-old also suffered a collapsed lung.
The truck was on fire, his mother recalled, and Willy knew they were all in a lot of trouble, "so he ran out to the road to flag down a vehicle."
At first, no one stopped to help the injured child screaming on the side of the road, but eventually, a woman and her daughter stopped and helped Willy pull his family from the burning vehicle.
Dressed in a cowboy's Sunday best - jeans and a plaid button-up shirt - Willy shuddered from the bottom of his boots to the tips of his bright blonde hair as he walked onto the stage Tuesday evening, his two small hands shoved deep inside his pockets.
Brother-in-law Brandon Griffith, 19, of Port Lavaca, beamed with pride as the Legion members presented the medal to Willy. "It is nice to see someone so young be so heroic - he feels that he did what anyone else would have done."
His 9-year-old cousin, whose life he saved, said she loves Willy, she is thankful for him and, although she does not remember the accident, she let's him off the hook when they fight.
While Willy was able to walk away from the accident with minimal physical injuries, his mom said he is plagued by nightmares.
"He wakes up screaming," she said. "Sometimes he'll talk about it, and sometimes he won't.
"I hope he realized that what he did was important."