Army Sgt. receives Soldier's Medal after saving couple from burning car
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Davis finished rescuing Rick and Sharon Steiert from the burning vehicle despite catching on fire himself
By Scott Berson
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — It was a normal summer day on June 9, 2017 when Staff Sgt. Nicholas Davis, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Artillery cannon crew member and section chief, was driving home to Ellijay, Ga., from Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
As he was cruising down the road near Nashville, he noticed a car overturned on its passenger side. It had flipped almost completely over, coming to rest on a slight downward slope, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Few other drivers seemed concerned, according to the Army.
"I was pulling up, and I noticed there was a small engine fire underneath the belly of the car, so I jumped out and ran up to the vehicle," Davis said.
When he reached the car, he found two people, Rick and Sharon Steiert, trapped in the vehicle. Most distressingly, a can of fuel that had been in the back of the car had tumbled during the crash. It had now become wedged under Sharon's legs, and she was covered in gasoline.
Meanwhile, the fire kept burning.
Davis used the pommel of a knife to break through the passenger window and began pulling the passengers out of the wrecked car.
Davis pulled Rick from the car first and got him out safely, then began working to rescue Sharon, who was trapped by her seatbelt.
That's when things went bad.
"As I was [unbuckling her seatbelt] the whole vehicle caught fire, and I just felt a blanket of fire wrap around my body, and everything just happened in a matter of seconds from there," Davis said in an Army news release.. "But before I could get the other half of her body out, she caught fire from all the fuel that was on her. I noticed she was on fire [shortly] before noticing that I was on fire too."
His leg encased in flames, Davis kept working to rescue Sharon. He got her out of the car and then tried to extinguish the flames that were still burning both his and Sharon's lower bodies.
All the occupants were transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where Davis was diagnosed with severe second degree burns on more than 75 percent of his lower leg. Sharon faced even more severe burns, and Rick was injured from the crash itself, according to the Army.
"They [doctors] said five seconds longer and I would have been halfway through a third degree burn and almost into the fourth degree," Davis said. "It was a very painful recovery, but nothing compared to what Sharon had to deal with; so I don't complain about it."
On Jan. 22, Davis was awarded the Soldier's Medal in Fort Campbell for his heroic actions in saving the Steierts. The medal honors the heroic actions of a soldier who puts themselves in harm's way in an act of valor during peacetime.
"Often in times in combat, we have moments of self-reflection," said Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commanding general in the Army news release. "We have visions of who we are, we have expectations of who we are, but it's not until that first moment under duress that our strength and character is tested. Through that crucible of fire, we prove who we are. That's exactly what Staff Sgt. Davis did."
Poppas said a "lesser man, a lesser Soldier, a lesser person" never would have stopped to help. "We're honoring his acts that are an example for us all. It's who we should be, no matter what the endeavor, and how we should act when we come across an event like he did."
As for Davis, he said it was common sense for him to help - and a testament to his upbringing.
"“I wasn’t raised to run away and just sit on the sidelines and watch someone be tortured or burned alive,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That’s somebody’s family. That’s somebody’s life.”
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