News: Soldier awarded Army’s highest peacetime award for valor: the Soldier’s Medal
Story by Staff Sgt. Joe Armas
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - A soldier assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, was awarded the Army’s most prestigious peacetime award for valor, the Soldier’s Medal, during a ceremony at Camp Marmal Dec. 1.
Capt. Dennis Edwards received the award for his efforts to extract two drivers whose vehicles had caught fire during a traffic accident in Killeen, Texas, on the morning of Jan. 27, according to the citation.
Edwards, from Baton Rouge, La., the assistant operations officer for Task Force Lobos, 1st ACB, was on his way to work when he was at a stoplight and two vehicles collided on the other side of the intersection.
Edwards, at times emotional, recounted his initial shock when the crash occurred.
“Initially, it took me back for a second,” he said. "I couldn’t believe that both vehicles had burst into flames."
“As I approached the first vehicle, all I could think to myself was that I had to react quickly to get both of the drivers out of those vehicles,” added Edwards.
When Edwards approached the first vehicle, his initial intention was to extract the driver from the driver’s side door, but quickly learned that would not be the most viable option.
“There was too much fire on that side of the car, so I had to resort to the passenger side,” Edwards continued.
After extracting the passenger in the first vehicle, Edwards dashed to the second vehicle, and with the assistance of a few individuals who were in the vicinity, he successfully extracted the driver of the sedan which was also in flames. After Edwards had repositioned both drivers away from the crash scene, one of the individuals who had assisted him called 911 and fire trucks soon rolled into the area to extinguish the fires.
The commander for Task Force Lobos, Lt. Col William Huff, saw Edwards later on that day, and was in awe of the subdued demeanor of someone who had just been through what many would consider a life-altering experience.
“He maintained his calm and cool collective attitude the whole time; he was absolutely unflappable,” added Huff.
Huff said Edwards had called in late that morning and hadn’t mentioned anything about the accident.
“Come to find out, he was late because he was saving someone’s life,” said Huff.
“He was thinking about his impact on the mission; he’s the epitome of selfless service,” added Huff.
Moreover, it took an act of selfless service for Edwards to be awarded the Soldier’s Medal. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards and Decorations), “The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.”
Huff said that he feels strongly that Edwards deserved to receive such an honor.
“Without thinking twice about his own personal safety, he ran across that intersection without hesitation to pull both drivers out of those vehicles,” added Huff. “It just speaks volumes about his professionalism.”
“He saw a dangerous situation and responded the way we all would have wanted to,” added Huff.
Edwards said that as he looked back almost a year after the accident, the experience was one he would never forget.
“I learned a lot from that day, especially to not take the little things in life for granted,” added Edwards.
As for the ceremony, Edwards was presented the award by Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander, ISAF Joint Command.
Fellow soldiers stood at the position of attention as the citation was recited, briefly summarizing the events of a late January morning that had started just like any other for Edwards. After the award presentation, Edwards talked about what the award meant to him as he acknowledged the immensity of the moment.
“It’s an absolute honor to receive this award,” said Edwards, who joined former secretary of state and retired four-star general Colin Powell as a fellow recipient of the prestigious honor.
Edwards, seemingly humbled in receiving the award, said any soldier would have reacted the same way and that he was glad that he was able to intervene the way he did.
Huff said the award ceremony was a great moment for Task Force Lobos.
"To witness a humbled and deserving professional like Edwards receive this award, it’s really something special, and I was honored to be a part of it,” added Huff.