Cadet Daniel Gaynor is the inaugural winner of The Tom Surdyke Leadership Award.
by Eric Haislar


article is an excerpt from Michelle Eberhart, April 9, 2017

The Tom Surdyke Leadership Award is in memory of Cadet Thomas Surdyke who died this past summer while saving the life of a person who was drowning. Surdyke was a member of the Company B4 Sandhurst team and his parents presented Gaynor the award.

I considered Tom a little brother. He was in my squad when I was the B4 squad leader. I miss him a lot, and I was crying while they were introducing his award, Gaynor said, noting he was shocked when he received the award. I owe the honor of receiving Tom's award to my team. When we finalized the roster for the Black Team back in February, the first thing we did was visit Tom's grave and dedicate this year to him. We ran the competition for Tom in his honor and I don't think we could have done a better job of honoring him. He's up in the sky grinning ear to ear about how things have worked out since he left us.

Upon accepting the award, Gaynor said hugging Tom's parents was an emotional moment for him. The Surdykes will be Gaynor's graduation guests in May.

Tom's memory and example pushed me this year to be the kind of leader that he would have been and demonstrate all of his qualities. I'll spend my whole life trying to live up to him and I doubt I ever will, but this year, culminating with this competition, is certainly a step in the right direction, he added.

After graduation, Gaynor will commission into the Marine Corps as an officer and knows he will use his Sandhurst skills throughout his military career.

What I learned about small unit leadership through Sandhurst is invaluable, he said. I truly believe being a Sandhurst squad leader is one of the best ways a cadet can learn to lead men or women in the armed forces.

The Cadet Thomas Surdyke Memorial Foundation was established to honor Tom to inspire and develop young leaders of character. Please support our mission at

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