It was a glamorous day -- perhaps a trifle too glamorous -- for Michael P. Bible, a Fairfax County boy scout.
Ten months ago Bible dramatically saved the life of an 8-year-old boy after an automobile accident. Yesterday, he stepped into a cavernous Fort Myer gymnasium to receive all the pomp and ceremony of a military review by the Army's elite Third Infantry.
The modest scout, a member of Explorer Post 1967 at Fort Belvoir, stood in his brown ranger uniform and Smokey Bear hat, imitating the stiff military bearing of those around him as he accepted the Boy Scouts' Medal of Merit for his deed.
He stayed at attention as soliders of the Old Guard ceremonial unit paraded past in a ceremony arranged by the Military District of Washington, whose commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Arter, is involved in area scout activities.
"You are in a select group" of scouts, Rudolf Flythe, chairman of the scouts' National Capital chapter, told Bible, his proud family, fellow scouts, friends and assorted military men assembled in the theatrically darkened hall.
Bible, framed by the color guard dressed for this patriotic exercise in Revolutionary War uniforms of red, white and blue and wearing white wings, smiled faintly from so much praise.
"It's kind of caught me off-guard and it's hit me real hard," said Bible, who works as a nurse's aide in the operating room of Alexandria Hospital and takes police science courses at Northern Virginia Community College.
"I was kind of impressed. It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me, really," he added after the colors had been retired and people crushed around him to congratulate him.
"I have a young scout at home and I hope he turns out just like you," said one woman who cornered him after the ceremony.
"I was just talking to your mother," said a military officer who stealthily approched from another angle, "and I was telling her that I think statistically this award is more distinguished than the Congressional Medal of Honor."
"It was no big deal," Bible said when asked to recount the events that led to yesterday's pageant.
Bible was working part-time at a Springfield service station last March 14 when someone ran in to report an accident on nearby Newington Road near Interstate 95. Bible grabbed a first-aid kit and sprinted to the scene. n
He had begun checking the accident victims for bleeding when he heard Chance Gates, 8, gasping for air in the back seat of the twisted car.
"When he first started gasping, I started to think about what I'd do if he stopped breathing," Bible told a reporter afterward. Seconds later the boy stopped breathing.
A Fairfax County policeman and Gates' mother said they assumed the boy was dead, but Bible squirmed into the wreckage and, jamming his fingers into Gates' mouth, cleared the boy's windpipe. Then he helped Gates begin breathing again.
"I had to be careful because it looked like he might have a neck injury," Bible said at the time.
He kept the boy's windpipe open with his fingers until rescue squad workers could free Gates and take him to Fairfax Hospital. The boy, who suffered a concussion and minor cuts, recovered.
The text of the award presented to Bible credited his "timely and clear-headed action in an emergency" with saving the youngster's life.
Bible, meanwhile, refused to be swayed by all the attention.
Asked how the day was different for him, he replied: "Well, I had to take off work."