Discovering Montana

News Releases

For Immediate Release - July 19, 1999
Contact: Anastasia Burton, (406) 444-5523

Governor Announces Medal of Valor Recipients

(Helena)---Governor Marc Racicot today announced the recipients of the 1998 Montana Medal of Valor. Fourteen Montanans were chosen to receive this prestigious award. The ceremony is scheduled to be held Monday, August 2, at 11:00 am in the auditorium of the DPHHS Building in Helena.

The 1998 Montana Medal of Valor recipients are: Matt Stanchfield, 35, of Wise River; Anthony Castro, 15, of Missoula; Marti Miller, 32, of Missoula; Aaron Hall, 17, of Milltown; Larry Anderson, 35, of Columbus; Gene McCoy, 60, of Gardner; Kevin Linderman, 44, of Trout Creek; Bob Metcalf, 49, of Bozeman; Randy McKenzie, 37, of Thompson Falls; Jim Inman, 51, of Thompson Falls; Wayne Abbey, 44, of Trout Creek; and Chris McGuigan, 33, of Plains. Posthumous awards will be presented to the families of Bill Pierce of Billings and Stephen Martin of Missoula.

The program for the awards ceremony is as follows:

The Montana Medal of Valor Awards, sponsored by the Montana Newspaper Association, are presented annually to citizens of the State of Montana who, at risk of death, endeavored to save others from a life threatening situation. The period for this year’s awards was January 1, 1998, through December 31, 1998.

The following are accounts of the life saving actions taken by each of the recipients:

Bill Pierce (deceased): During the early morning hours of December 31, 1998, Bill Pierce awakened to find his family’s cabin on fire and filling with smoke. He woke his daughters, Rebecca and Katie, and helped them out of their bedroom window. Then, instead of leaving the cabin himself, he went back to find his wife, Jan. Bill and Jan never made it out of the cabin, which was quickly consumed by flames after Bill had gotten his daughters out.

Stephen Martin (deceased): Last winter, Stephen Martin was moving a hot tub in his pickup when a gust of wind blew it out of the truck. Stephen stopped his truck in front of the hot tub and turned on his flashers while he tried to reload it. A Great Falls family stopped and the driver got out to help Stephen lift the hot tub.

While they worked, Stephen noticed an approaching vehicle that did not appear to be moving into the other lane to pass around the pickup. In the instant before the second vehicle hit the back of the pickup, Stephen pushed the Great Falls man out of the way, saving his life. Stephen, however, was caught between the two vehicles and was killed by the impact.

SFC Matt Stanchfield: On May 31, 1998, members of the Rader family gathered in two rubber rafts on the Wise River to scatter the ashes of a family member who had recently died. The river was running high due to spring runoff and was treacherous under the best of circumstances. The two rafts were seriously overloaded and collided with one of the bridge pilings on the Jerry Creek Bridge, throwing several family members into the icy and turbulent water.

This was the scene Sgt. Stanchfield encountered as he, his fiance, and his parents arrived at the bridge while on a family drive. Sgt Stanchfield, trained in rappelling, organized onlookers on the bridge and quickly rigged a rope from the bridge that he used to lower himself to the boats. After unsuccessfully trying to pull one of the victims back up to the bridge, Sgt. Stanchfield assisted in securing ropes from the boats to shore where other rescue workers now waited to pull the rafts to safety.

Tragically, Cora Rader, mother to the man whose ashes the family had gathered to scatter, drowned and her body was later found by searchers.

Anthony Castro and Marti Miller: Keith Miller was swimming near the McClay Bridge when he got caught in an eddy near the middle of the river. Exhausted by efforts to free himself from the whirlpool, Miller started to go under before he could reach the shore. His wife, Marti, dove in to help him and found him unresponsive. Keith’s size made it impossible for Marti to pull him from the river unassisted.

Anthony Castro and a friend heard Marti’s cries for help and Anthony dove in while his friend went for help. Together, Anthony and Marti were able to pull Keith to shore through the swift current.

Aaron Hall: At 16 years of age, this camp counselor fought off a mountain lion that had attacked young Dante Swallow near the top of Marshall Mountain Ski area. Dante, a participant in a week-long day camp at Marshall, was attacked from behind by a young male mountain lion weighing over 90 lbs. The cat grabbed Dante around the neck and head, forced the child to the ground, and began to drag him into the woods. Aaron rushed the cat, kicking and hitting it while yelling to scare it away. The cat backed off momentarily, allowing Aaron to pick up Dante and move him to safety.

Aaron then quickly administered first aid to the puncture wounds on Dante’s neck. Aaron and another counselor then got Dante into a pickup and rushed him down the mountain while other counselors moved the other children to safety.

Aaron, a Boy Scout, has received the Crossed Palms, Scouting’s highest honor, for his courage. He was also recently recognized by the Carnegie Hero Foundation.

Larry Anderson and Gene McCoy: Last summer, during a transfer of gasoline from a tanker truck to a bulk truck, an explosion threw Stephen Kraft from the bulk truck and ignited his clothing. The ensuing fire destroyed the bulk truck and burned Mr. Kraft over 75% of his body. Gene McCoy and Larry Anderson were nearby and immediately rushed in with fire extinguishers to put out the flames on Mr. Kraft. The men then climbed onto the truck to put out the fires before further explosions could occur and possibly ignite other nearby fuel tanks and endanger many other lives.

Unfortunately, Gene and Larry were too late to prevent serious injury to Stephen Kraft, who later died from his injuries.

Kevin Linderman: In January of 1998, Kevin saved the life of three-year-old Travis Johnson and also attempted to save Travis’s 10-month old baby brother, Tracy Fields, from their burning home in Paradise. Travis and Tracy were trapped in their bedroom when fire broke out in the living room. Kevin Linderman, who was staying nearby, heard the boy’s mother, Kathleen, screaming and quickly came to assist the family. Entering the home through a back door, Kevin was able to crawl to where Travis lay in his bed and get the child to safety. Once outside, Kevin learned that Tracy was still trapped inside the house and, although unsuccessful in finding Tracy, he braved the flames and smoke a second time to search for the infant.

Kevin recently received the Carnegie Hero award for his actions.

Bob Metcalf: Last summer, while the Arkens family, who were visiting Montana from Wisconsin, pulled up their rafts at the Bear Trap Bridge near Ennis, their young son Larry and a friend decided to stay with the rafts to play. The raft in which Larry was playing broke free and headed downriver, where it turned upside down.

Bob Metcalf, driving on Highway 289 toward Bozeman, saw the overturned raft and noticed an arm and a leg coming out from under it. Bob quickly stopped and dove into the water where he righted the raft and attended to Larry. Leaving Larry safe, Bob left before anyone could learn his name. It was only by some quick detective work by the Arken family and the assistance of Bozeman Chronicle reporter Joan Haines and the Madison and Gallatin County Sheriff’s offices that the Arken family were able to learn the identity of Larry’s rescuer.

Firefighter Randy McKenzie, Fire Chief Jim Inman, Deputy Wayne Abbey and Deputy Chris McGuigan: During the early morning hours of January 16, 1998, Frank Barbeau, Jr. lost control of his pickup on an icy curve near Thompson Falls and ended up in the icy, swiftly moving water near Prospect Creek Bridge. Wayne and Chris were the first on the scene, and found Frank being assisted by a friend, Ben Schilling, while another friend had gone to call for help. ( Ben, an Idaho citizen, is unfortunately not eligible to receive the Montana Medal of Valor which, by statute, is limited to Montana residents.)

Wayne and Chris both entered the frigid chest-deep waters to help Frank while they waited for the necessary equipment to arrive to cut the man free from his truck. When Jim and Randy arrived with the equipment, they also entered the freezing water to cut Frank free. Clearly, these four men went above and beyond the call of duty and in doing so were responsible for saving Frank Barbeau’s life.


Former Governor Racicot's Page Press Releases