The Fourth of July was supposed to be a day of celebration for the Surdyke family. Instead, on this sad day, the body of Cadet Tom Surdyke was laid to rest, given a hero’s farewell at West Point because of the bravery and sacrifice that the young Cadet did.
West Point Cadet Tom Surdyke was only 19 when he gave his life to save a civilian.
Cadet Tom Surdyke had just finished his first year at the academy when he went to Long Island to visit his friend James Crimson. But what was supposed to be a great and relaxing vacation at Cooper’s Beach turned into a nightmare that no one expected or even imagined to happen.
On June 24, 2016, a swimmer was pulled out to the sea due to an unexpected riptide. Tom Surdyke saw that the swimmer, a young boy he met and became friends that same day was drowning. And without a second thought, Surdyke ran to the shore and swan towards the drowning boy.
Surdyke successfully managed to keep the boy afloat battling rough sea current until a paddle boarder was able to get the boy out of the water. The only problem was, even if Surdyke managed to save the boy, the exhaustion and the heavy amount of sea water that Surdyke ingested took a toll on the young cadet’s body and he lost consciousness.
When the unconscious body of Surdyke was finally pulled of the water by other beach goers, his friend started performing CPR until the paramedics arrived and rushed him to the nearest local hospital. On the way to the hospital, Surdyke’s heart had already stopped at least three times.
When Surdyke’s parents arrived at the hospital, he was already on a life support. Then after 4 days, on June 28, 2016, West Point Cadet Tom Surdyke passed away.
Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the academy superintendent at West Point, wrote in a statement: “Cadet Surdyke epitomized the values of duty, honor, and country in all that he did.”
Cadet Tom Surdyke’s funeral was attended by his parents, three sisters, and his fellow West Point Cadets. He was laid to rest at his would-be Alma mater, buried among other West Point Legends like General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., Maj. Gen. Dent Grant, and Winfield Scott.
In his West Point application, Cadet Tom Surdyke wrote, “I want to dedicate my life to serve and protect those who are not able to do so for themselves.”
Surdyke’s father had this to say about his son when the Army Times interviewed him, “He just quietly always did what was right. And at the same time was able to make his friends or anybody around him feel good about what they were doing and what he was trying to do.”
To honor West Point Cadet Tom Surdyke’s sacrifice and bravery, the GoFundMe scholarship was created. This scholarship helps students that possess strong leadership qualities.