Editorial: True heroes indeed

17:54, Feb 02 2014
BAND OF BROTHERS: James (Jock) McCullough, second from front left, is surrounded by those who saved his life after he hit his head on a rock in the Kakanui River.

The word hero isn't used often these days.

There is a tacit acceptance that it is a meaningful word that should be used only when it is truly deserved; that it is important not to "cheapen the currency".

It is reserved for the people who put themselves at risk to help others, who show the courage and presence of mind needed to make the right decisions in difficult, or frightening, or dangerous situations.

It is reserved for the people who make a difference, whose actions determine outcomes.

Twelve months ago, the actions of a group of young men meant that Friday was the anniversary of the day Jock McCullough nearly died - but didn't.

Twelve months ago, Jock dived into the Kakanui River, gashed his head open on a rock, and broke two vertebrae.


Drowning, paralysed, and in pain, it was the actions of his mates that meant the outcome for the 17-year-old was far better than might have been the case.

They pulled him from the water, one took off his shorts to try to staunch the blood pouring from the jagged gash on Jock's scalp, and they went for help - sensibly going in pairs in different directions to seek help and a cellphone signal.

The location could hardly have been more challenging, access even on foot was difficult. The boys directed the St John's paramedic to the scene, carried expensive equipment for him, and in shorts and bare feet, ploughed through gorse and bush.

And while teenage boys aren't naturally over-dramatic about things, the paramedic involved spelled out clearly on Friday just how terrifying that sort of situation is, and how hard it is to see a mate injured in such a way.

Jock's medical notes make it clear that the actions of his friends that day saved his life.

It was a reminder, too, that while the headlines involving teenage boys - or youths - are often negative, there are young men in our community who defy those stereotypes.

And so, Friday marked the anniversary of Jock's survival, instead of his death, and he was able to be there on the day his Waitaki Boys High School mates - the "band of brothers" - and two others were finally properly acknowledged for their bravery on that hot summer's day that went so dreadfully wrong.

The Timaru Herald