- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2019


Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo was at his STEM School Highlands Ranch desk, analyzing comedy in English lit class, when a guy walked in and pulled a gun.

Castillo, rather than ducking, charged.

He represents not just the best of America, but the best in humanity. And now, Congress needs to honor and recognize him.

Castillo was shot and killed, but, in death, gave his classmates precious time to take cover.

A couple of Castillo’s classmates, 18-year-old Brendan Bialy and another, were then reportedly able to tackle and disarm one of the gunmen.

The school’s private security guard, meanwhile, rushed to act. So, too, did Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies, who arrived on scene within two minutes of the emergency call to then subdue and arrest two suspects, now known as 18-year-old Devon Erickson and 16-year-old Alec McKinney.

Undoubtedly, there were a lot of heroes that day — a lot of heroic actions taken.

But Castillo, in that regard, stands alone.

Authorities say that if it hadn’t been for Castillo’s instinctive and rapid jump toward the gunman, not away, more would have died. As it was, several were injured; only Castillo lost his life.

“It was immediate, non-hesitation, immediate jump into action,” said Bialy about Castillo to CNN.

And like so many stories of bravery, like so many tales of courage, it’s the good who end up dying too young.

“All these kids are alive because of [Castillo‘s] sacrifice and the bravery of all the boys to neutralize the threat,” the mother of one student at the school was quoted as saying.

Congress can have a role here — and it’s not to call for more gun control, or to fight against the call for more gun control. For once, Congress can take a nonpartisan path and go for the somber and inspirational, rather than political.

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest awards that can be given a civilian in America, rivaled only in esteem, perhaps, by the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It’s frequently awarded to members of the military. But it’s frequently not. Among the list of Congressional Gold Medal recipients are the Wright Brothers, in 1909; poet Robert Frost, in 1960; Bob Hope, in 1962; Walt Disney, in 1968; the American Red Cross, in 1979; boxer Joe Louis, in 1982; Olympian Jesse Owens, in 1988; Ruth and Billy Graham, in 1996; Rosa Parks, in 1999; the Tuskegee Airmen, in 2006; golfer Arnold Palmer, in 2009; golfer Jack Nicklaus, in 2014; and politician Bob Dole in 2017.

Castillo ought to be added.

Now it’s Castillo’s turn, sadly, posthumously.

“Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” the House historical webpage states.

Two-thirds of the House and 67 senators must cosponsor the legislation, which then goes to various committees for vote. But given Castillo’s acts, that shouldn’t be hard, even in this hotly charged political swamp of Capitol Hill.

The Bible says there is no greater love than that of a person who lays life down for another. That phrase is usually spoke in modern times in reference to members of the military, as both an expression of condolence and reminder of why we fight. But Castillo was no soldier. He wasn’t a member of the armed forces; he didn’t sign the bottom line on a contract that commissioned him to do battle if so called.

He wasn’t even a member of America’s fine police forces, or emergency response teams, trained as a professional to put others first.

Castillo was a student. He was a kid. And yet, Castillo ran toward the fire to save others, living out that most noble of biblical definition of love in the process.

And now here we all are, alive — some of us, thanks only to him — and left to ponder whether we would do the same, could do the same, if faced with similar circumstances. It’s Castillo who leaves us with the hope that yes, maybe we could. Maybe yes, we would.

It’s Castillo who reminds us that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.

If such hope in tragedy isn’t worth a Congressional Gold Medal, what is?

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ckchumley.

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