By Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry
Indiana National Guard
GREENCASTLE, Ind. - Selfless service is a value Army leaders try to instill in all of their Soldiers. The leaders succeeded with Spc. Brian Schafer.
Driving to his first drill weekend on Saturday morning, July 12, Schafer heard his wife, Sonna, calling for help. She was yelling for him because their neighbor, Jamie Broce, was trapped in a culvert and surrounded by a watery vortex.
"I truly believe I wasn't going to get out," said Broce. He went into the peaceful-looking flood waters to hopefully clear what he thought was a drainage grill. It wasn't a drainage grill, but a four-foot concrete tube. And while the water was calm on top, it was swirling and raging underneath.
"I got spun around and sucked in," said Broce, a Clayton, Ind. resident. "I saw Brian's wife and yelled for help."
Arriving on the scene, Schafer saw that Broce was barely keeping his head above water.
"I jumped in without thinking," said Schafer. "It was an automatic response. I knew I had to try to get him above the water. It's a part of our selfless service."
Schafer, 36, an artilleryman with the Indiana National Guard's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery, had recently returned from basic and advanced training.
"I was probably in the best shape of my life," said Schafer who is also a manager at a concrete plant.
Although in shape, Schafer was nearly sucked into the vortex too. Yet he finally leveraged himself on top of the pipe and held onto Broce for about 40 minutes, until first responders arrived.
"It was a long time for that kind of thing," said Sonna. "You could almost feel the seconds."
Everybody involved said they felt that time was moving very slowly.
"It seemed like it took forever," said Schafer.
The two neighbors weren't out of their watery trap yet though. According to Broce's wife, Darci, it took Schafer, Sonna, and four fire fighters to finally pull Broce from the water. Darci also stated Schafer was instrumental in coordinating the fire fighters' help to free himself and his neighbor.
In a ceremony at the unit's family day on Sunday, Dec. 7, Schafer received Indiana National Guard's second highest medal for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his actions on that wet, summer day.
"Brian, you set an example for all of us to emulate," said Maj. Gen. Tod Carmony, 38th Infantry Division commander. "This incident has a good outcome, but it could've been very tragic. It's a cautionary tale of flooding water."
Broce realizes the tragedy that could've been.
"If I don't have a six-foot, five [inch], 240 pound strong man as a neighbor, I don't make it out of there," said Broce. "He [Schafer] deserves whatever honor he got today, and I'm just so glad I could be here and be a part of it. I'll forever be grateful."
During the ceremony, Broce thanked Schafer for his efforts.
"It was only 40 minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime," said Broce. "Thank you not only for serving your county, but also serving your fellow man."
Schafer was humble about receiving the medal and helping his former neighbor.
"It's overwhelming and unexpected. I was just doing my job," said Schafer, now of Coatesville, Ind. "I was just trying to help a person who needed help."
Helping and doing his job, selflessly.
This work, Schafer's selfless service saves neighbor's life, by SFC Jeff Lowry, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.