Waterloo officer bestowed with Medal of Valor
for saving three lives after plane crash near his house;
Wojcicki invokes "classic hero's journey" during presentation

September 21, 2020

A Waterloo police sergeant received the Medal of Valor from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police this week for his heroic actions in saving the lives of three people after a small plane crashed near his house in March 2019.

Waterloo's Daws receives Medal of ValorILACP Executive Director Ed Wojcicki made the presentation Monday, September 21, during the Waterloo City Council meeting. He said the association doesn’t bestow many Medals of Valor, but the Illinois Chiefs are very proud of Sergeant Trinity Daws for his willingness to put his life in danger. Waterloo is in Monroe County about 20 miles southeast of downtown St. Louis. From left are Mayor Tom Smith, Wojcicki, Daws, Chief Jeff Prosise, and retired chief James Trantham. 

Daws was off-duty at home the afternoon of March 12, 2019, when he heard a crash outside. It turned out to be a small plane carrying a 4-year-old toddler and his two grandparents. The plane rested upside down about 60 yards from the house. Daws ran to the plane, and along with another person who arrived on the scene, broke a window with a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, Daws’ wife Cathy called 911. He cut the seatbelt holding the boy in his seat. They moved the child to safety, and with fuel spilling, they tended to the other two passengers until emergency crews arrived and got them out. “Sergeant Daws placed the life and safety of the plane crash victims above his own and selflessly ignored the imminent risk of danger to himself created by leaking aviation fuel and an unstable crash site,” the Waterloo police said. “The singularly distinguished actions of Sergeant Daws reflect great credit upon himself and the Waterloo Police Department.”

Everyone in the Waterloo City Hall gave Daws a standing ovation before and after the Medal of Valor was presented.

Wojcicki invoked the classic “hero’s journey” and how it applies to cops in presenting the medal. He said:

“You may never have heard of the hero’s journey, but you will understand it, and how it applies, when I explain it.

“The hero’s journey always has three parts –

  • “Departure from the ordinary world;
  • “A call to adventure in another world, a special world, the underworld, where the person endures trials and struggles; and
  • “Having a triumph and returning to the ordinary world as a transformed person with boons to bestow on others.

“The hero’s journey can be found in the stories and mythologies of every culture in every period of history. Think of Hamlet, and Homer’s Odyssey, and Hercules. In more modern times, the Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas said he could not have completed the original Star Wars trilogy if he didn’t understand the hero’s journey. Think how Luke Skywalker applies to the three stages of the hero’s journey – leaving the ordinary world of the farm, inspired by Obi Wan Kenobi to fight the Galactic Empire, enduring some great struggles and fighting Darth Vader, and returning triumphantly to enjoy the boons bestowed by Princess Leia.

“There are always two traits of the hero: service and personal sacrifice.

“That is why I think that a police officer’s career embodies the hero’s journey: it is a career of personal sacrifice and service. After they hear the call to adventure, they enter a world that most of us don’t see or rarely see, and because they do that, the rest of us get to live our lives with a high degree of freedom.

“Now, about Sgt. Daws. He left the ordinary world of his home, which was about 60 yards from where the plane crashed. He rushed to the scene, used a fire extinguisher to break a window, and first rescued a toddler – a four-year-old boy – who was still strapped in a car seat. With fuel leaking all over the place, he also made sure that two other people in the plane were okay until they could be rescued. He put himself in great danger by going in there, at great personal sacrifice, and that is why the Illinois Chiefs are so proud of him. I will now bestow on Sgt. Daws the Medal of Valor, with deep gratitude for his heroism, his service, and his sacrifice.”