Scouter honored for heroism during Navy Yard shooting

Navy Capt. Edward “Chip” Zawislak is a real-life superhero, and he learned those skills in Scouting.

Zawislak, an Eagle Scout and Scouter with Troop 903 in Southern Maryland, rescued and used first aid on a woman shot during the Washington Navy Yard attack on Sept. 16, 2013.

Yesterday, the BSA’s National Capital Area Council honored Zawislak (at center in the photo above) with its highest lifesaving award: the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms. An average of four of those awards are presented per year nationwide.

A lone gunman, whose name I won’t include here, killed 12 during the shooting and injured three. One of those injured was Jennifer Bennett, who was shot in the chest.

As this Washington Post story explains, Zawislak and two co-workers carried Bennett up some stairs to the only open door they could find. It led to the building’s roof. Still unsure whether the shooter knew they were up there, Zawislak stayed focused and applied pressure to Bennett’s wounds for more than an hour.

Zawislak, 45, told another civilian to write a note saying there were four people on the roof and throw it down to police. Soon after, a police officer arrived, helped stabilize Bennett and guarded the door while the four civilians were rescued by helicopter.

Bennett made a full recovery and sat in the front row during Thursday’s ceremony honoring Zawislak.

Hearing Bennett recount to the Post the story of Zawislak’s heroism gives me goosebumps. What she describes is exactly how you’d expect an Eagle Scout to react in the most dramatic situation imaginable:

“On that day, Chip was as perfect as perfect can be. He demonstrated leadership qualities. He showed confidence. He had humor. He was in control on that roof. He assured all of us we would get rescued. He sat there for an hour and 20 minutes and pressed my wounds. He showed no fear. He was in charge.”

Zawislak’s telling of the story has the humility you’d expect from an Eagle Scout, Scout volunteer and man who has served four naval sea duty tours. In Boy Scouts, he told the Post, “you are trained to just respond. I didn’t think about anything. I just did it.”

It doesn’t get much better than that. The skills we’re teaching our Scouts and Venturers stay with them throughout their lives. What you do matters.

H/T: Thanks to Rob Hoitt, district Venturing chairman in the National Capital Area Council, for the blog post idea. Image: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post

8 thoughts on “Scouter honored for heroism during Navy Yard shooting

  1. Bryan…can you please ID the Captain in the above photo for us please? *I know* that he’s in the center of the image, but others may not know and all they see are three Scouters standing raising the Scout Sign. Thanks!! Great way to start the program day!!

  2. In Texas, the adage is “One riot, one Ranger” and it’s reassuring to know we can add “One situation, one Scout” alongside “Once a Scout, always a Scout.”

    Kudos to Capt. Zawislak for taking charge and doing what needed to be done under harrowing circumstances.

    Kudos to everyone on his trail to Eagle who instilled the skills he called upon when they were needed most.

    Kudos to Mr. Wendell for declining to name the individual perpetrating this action.

  3. Well done Captain Zawislak! No doubt his time as a scout, Eagle Scout, and scouter along with his years of service as a Naval officer resulted in his quick and calm response in a horrifying situation. His actions really show what it means “to help other people at all times” and to be “mentally awake.”

    Bryan, thank you for sharing this story. I’d much rather hear about the heroes than the back story of the selfish people who commit these crimes.

    Thank you Captain Zawislak for your service to our country, for giving back as a scouter, and for your actions on Sept 16.

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