A Ringgold County Sheriff’s deputy who pulled a drowning girl from a southwest Iowa lake has won the state’s highest award for valor. Deputy Vic Lilienthal was awarded the “Sullivan Brothers Award of Valor” Wednesday afternoon for his heroism. “Back in April there was a 14 year old girl (who) was swimming out there in the lake just north of Mt. Ayr and she had trouble swimming,” Lilienthal says. “I was called to the scene and put on my life vest and swam out and got her.”
The folks who nominated Lilienthal for the award say he went above and beyond the call of duty. Lilienthal was actually off-duty when the distress call came in, but he lives close to the lake, so a dispatcher called him at home and told him the girl was in trouble. He grabbed his life-vest and took off.
“If it was one my kids, I’d like to have somebody go out and get them,” the deputy says.
Tonya Johnson, the girl Lilienthal saved, was among a group of teenagers that had been wading in the lake back on April 9th. “She was dared to go swim across the lake,” Lilienthal says. But by the time she got halfway across, her legs started cramping and she couldn’t swim any farther.
Lilienthal is a bit surprised by the all the hoopla over his heroics. “I guess I’m usually not the one to get any awards,” Lilienthal says. “I’m just an average deputy out there doing my job.” Lilienthal says he’s proud to have been recognized with such a prestigious award. A second award of valor was presented to the widow of Leo Beauchamp of Washington. Beauchamp died in August at the age of 81. He was a volunteer fire fighter for 40 years and had served for the past 26 years on the board which selected the Iowans who won the state’s award of valor.