News: Super Soldiers risk own lives, save local family
Story by Sgt. Alexandra Shea
FORT STEWART, Ga. - It was a typical Tuesday night for Maryella Haynes, an in-home daycare provider and resident of Hinesville. She had just finished preparing dinner for her family and started cooking a fresh batch of Tater Tots, a request by her granddaughter.
"I went into the backyard to check on my kids when I noticed some glass on the ground right by the door and commenced to pick it up,” Haynes recalled of the night. “I just started talking to the kids and before you know it my granddaughter ran outside saying the house was on fire.”
Her pan of fresh Tater Tots had started a grease fire, which quickly filled the house with thick, black smoke.
Unaware of what was happening next door, Haynes’ neighbor Sgt. Michael Richardson of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was just getting home. Repeated ringing of his door bell and a frantic little girl on the other side set Richardson into swift action.
As he approached his neighbor’s house, he could see black smoke pouring out of the house and an elderly woman lying on the threshold of the front door. The elderly lady was Haynes’ mother, who was unable to walk and was also blind.
"I got the mother as far as I could out of the house, but I didn't want to drag her over the bricks so I waited for Brandon to come help me with her," said Richardson.
Sgt. Brandon Ziegler was Richardson's other neighbor and close friend. Ziegler, of the 233rd Heavy Equipment Transport, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, was notified of the fire by Richardson’s wife, Chelsea, and sprung to action, grabbing his fire extinguisher and running to the aid of his friend and Haynes.
"Chelsea came running over, busted through the door saying, ‘Call 911,’” said Ziegler. “My son was outside playing, and I assumed something had happened to one of the kids, so I jumped up and ran outside. As I passed her she said, ‘Mary's house is on fire,’ so I automatically grabbed my fire extinguisher from my garage, and when I got there Michael was pulling a lady out."
After getting her a safe distance from the home, the two entered the house to get the wheelchair that belonged to the mother. Not once, but three times the Soldiers entered the home, the last two times to extinguish the grease fire spreading across the kitchen using three standard fire extinguishers.
When asked if he was concerned with his personal safety, Richardson replied, "Not really. It was a big fire, but it was contained to the kitchen, and we had ways to get out and there were two of us. Brandon always had my back and I always had his.”
After the fire was extinguished, the two Soldiers waited outside as the Hinesville Police Department provided crowd control and the fire fighters from Stations 1 and 2 of the Hinesville Fire Department took over the scene.
A somber Haynes described Richardson and Ziegler's actions, "Words just can't describe how they ran in there without any concern to themselves. It was just really beautiful, and I thank them for it!"