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Mitchell Boy Scout receives honor for act of heroism

Although he's only a sophomore in high school, Riley Brown knows what it takes to be a hero. After all, he saved his mother Melonye Brown's life three years ago in what could have been a horrific house fire, if not for the courageous act of heroi...

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Riley Brown stands with his Certificate of Meritorious Action on Sunday at the First United Pentecostal Church in Mitchell. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Although he's only a sophomore in high school, Riley Brown knows what it takes to be a hero.

After all, he saved his mother Melonye Brown's life three years ago in what could have been a horrific house fire, if not for the courageous act of heroism from the then 13-year-old.

For Riley, staying calm in the face of grave danger can be traced to his decade-long involvement as a Boy Scout.

"I don't think I could have saved my mom's life if it weren't for everything I've learned as a Boy Scout," Riley proudly said. "I responded to the situation with actions that I knew how to do."

A Boy Scout since first grade, he has climbed his way up the ranks to become a Star ranked scout. And on Oct. 22, Riley received the Medal and Certificate for Meritorious Action in honor of his heroic feat, adding another patch to his already well-decorated Boy Scout uniform.

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The evening of Feb. 26, 2015, was a night the Brown family will never forget. Riley's mother was battling through an illness, prompting her to use a bed warmer due to fever and chills. Minutes later, the bed warmer heat pack burned through two sheets and three blankets, causing the house to quickly fill with smoke.

"After I got home from choir practice around 9 p.m., I instantly saw and smelled the smoke and knew my mom and dog were the only two at home," Riley said. "I quickly rushed into my mom's room, and I thought she wasn't breathing. Fortunately she was, so I woke her up and got her out of the room."

Remaining calm under intense pressure after rescuing his mother, Riley then made his way back into his parents' room to put out the smoldering bed warmer and sheets, which were seconds away from bursting into flames.

He then swiftly put out the heat pack in the nearest bathroom and stripped the still-smoking blankets off the bed, stomping them out on the ground with a technique he learned in Boy Scouts, ultimately diffusing the potentially tragic fire at the family's east Mitchell home.

"He just came in and took over," a proud Meloyne said of her son. "It was amazing how quickly he put out the smoking blankets and bed warmer after getting me out of the room."

Riley's pride in the Boy Scouts of America is deeply rooted in family tradition. His father, Roderick Brown, the head pastor at First United Pentecostal Church, was a Boy Scout who worked his way up to the highest rank of honor, becoming an Eagle Scout.

Rod and his younger daughter Victoria Brown were just finishing up chatting in the car after returning from choir practice before they made their way into to the house, only to find Riley had taken matters into his own hands.

"He had already dealt with everything before my daughter and I walked inside," Rod said of his son.

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While Rod was taken aback by his son's swift actions, he said learning calmness under pressure is one of many life lessons that Boy Scouts instill in their youth.

To receive the prestigious honor like the Medal and Certificate for Meritorious Action, a Boy Scout has to submit his story of the heroic act, which is then evaluated by a Boy Scouts' local council. According to Rod, there is a three-year grace period to submit a story of heroism, and witnesses have to provide evidence of the act.

"It's a special award, and I'm so proud of him," Rod said.

Looking toward the future, Riley aspires to earn his way to Eagle Scout like his father. The many valuable life skills that Riley has learned since joining the Boy Scouts almost a decade ago lie within the leadership of his Scout Leader Pat Oleson.

Oleson, a military veteran and current Mitchell School District Resource Officer, has inspired Riley to continue his journey of becoming a better person through Boy Scouts.

"I'm just really thankful to have a leader like Pat in my life," Riley said. "Being a Boy Scout has definitely impacted my life."

From left to right: Riley Brown's Certificate of Meritorious Action is propped up next to his medal. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
From left to right: Riley Brown's Certificate of Meritorious Action is propped up next to his medal. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

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