“We are all familiar with the kind of heroic action we see from our paratroopers in combat, but heroism sometimes reveals itself in life’s unexpected moments too. That is the case here,” said Maj. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Kurilla spoke these words to attendees gathered to watch Sgt. Jeffrey M. Rose, an apache maintainer with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, receive the Soldier’s Medal, Friday, at Simmons Army Airfield.
This medal was the first of two Soldier’s Medals to be awarded this week.
Spc. Elvis Romero, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist for the 3rd Airfield Operations Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment was awarded the second Soldier’s Medal on Wednesday.
The Soldier’s Medal was established July 2, 1926 by an act of Congress. The medal is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by heroism not involving conflict with an enemy. It is the equivalent to the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star Medal but is awarded only outside of combat. The valorous action must have involved personal hazard or danger; it is not about the saving of a life, but about the willingness to risk oneself.
Both Rose and Romero are attributed with this valor and willingness based their on actions during the early morning of December 5, 2016.
At the entrance to Simmons Army Airfield a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle collided with a privately owned vehicle. Rose’s vehicle was impacted by the two cars and Romero was a witness to the accident.
Romero and Rose realized that the POV, severely damaged during the accident, was on fire with an unconscious motorist inside.
“Within seconds of opening the door that small fire turned into a giant flame and the whole engine was engulfed in flames,” said Rose.
Romero had noticed a child seat in the back of the car. He checked to make sure a child wasn’t inside.
“Time is very sensitive and you had to move quickly,” he said. “Once we saw the fire, Rose and I knew we had to remove the Soldier ... We put him behind another vehicle in case the one on fire exploded.”
Together they worked quickly and unpinned the unconscious Soldiers feet, which were caught under the steering wheel column, and pulled him to safety, providing first aid while they waited for emergency services to arrive.
Rose attributes his military training and experiences during a Combat Life Saver course for his quick actions.
“It was just ingrained in my body,” said Rose. “Everyone can take away that the training is not pointless; that the people around you in your life can have an impact in more ways than one,” he said.
This is Rose’s last month in the Army, and he has plans too attend school and pursue a career in aerospace engineering.
Romero has now been in the Army for 3 years.
Rose’s brigade commander Lt. Col. Shane Finison believes that the actions of these two men are an embodiment of what the Army does right.
“It meant a lot. It meant that, I think, the Army values that we work so hard to expose our soldiers to … its taken hold … it became part of the fabric of their character … that type of character, it manifested itself out there on the street,” said Finison.
Both men received their medals with proud Families looking on. Rose’s mother, stepmother and father, and sister and her children attended the Friday medal presentation, and Romero’s wife and their 6-month-old daughter attended the Wednesday medal presentation.
Each Soldier felt that they were just doing the right thing.
“I’d like to say anyone would get out and assist,” said Romero.
“I am a firm believer of karma, as well as do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So I know if I were in his shoes, I would want someone to go out of their way to help me,” said Rose.
Two Soldiers from different backgrounds and on different trajectories came together that December morning, and at great risk to themselves, saved a man’s life.