Wilson Central JROTC Jacob Armistead and Alec Jakalski

Wilson Central High School JROTC students Jacob Armistead (left) and Alec Jakalski received the Navy JROTC Meritorious Achievement after they rescued three people and two dogs from floodwaters in Hickman County. The award is the highest honor a JROTC cadet can receive.

Two Wilson Central High Navy JROTC students received the highest award they could receive after they helped rescue people from floodwater in Hickman County recently.

Jacob Armistead and Alec Jakalski received the Navy JROTC Meritorious Achievement after they rescued three campers and two dogs during the flooding on Aug. 21 that resulted in more than 20 deaths following the storm.

The National Weather Service Nashville said Hickman County received 11 inches of rainfall and the Piney River water level reached 31.8 feet, exceeding the previous crest record of 20.08 feet.

The students were camping with family at the Piney River Resort in Hickman County and awoke as flood waters rose.

“I woke up at around 6 a.m. and I heard it was raining throughout the whole entire night and I wanted to see how high the river was,” said Jakalski, who said his dad received a flash flood warning notification on his cellphone around the same time. “We open the door to the camper and see that it’s already at the second step of the camper, which was about 2 feet high.”

Armistead, whose grandmother Linda Armistead is a longtime member of the Wilson County Board of Education, said he had been around many rivers while camping, kayaking, canoeing and whitewater rafting, but said he realized the floodwaters were more severe.

“With that flood it was something completely unmatched, because the amount of water, the amount of rising, the amount of power behind it overwhelmed me at that point,” he said.

The students said once they reached a safe level, they noticed three senior citizen campers trapped in flood water.

Armistead and Jakalski said they rushed to form a human chain to rescue the group.

“It’s very blurry to look back at it. Like, we only remember the major parts of it. But I do remember thinking about how we could help. I knew we could help somehow,” Jakalski said.

The pair said they don’t know the identity of the people they rescued. Armistead credited the training they’ve received in Boys Scouts and JROTC for their readiness in rescuing the people.

Master Chief John Ferguson, the Wilson Central NJROTC Naval Science instructor, presented the award and said it was a significant first for the school.

“I’ve never given this award here at Wilson Central. So, to give it twice is awesome,” said Ferguson, who said he’s been an instructor for 10 years.