FORT LEWIS, Wash., (Army News Service, Dec. 26, 2006) - A Fort Lewis non-commissioned officer received the Soldier's Medal from the Army's senior civilian for saving the lives of a man and several children in a 2005 shooting incident at a local mall.
Secretary of the Army, Frances J. Harvey pinned the Army's highest non-combat award for valor on the chest of Staff Sgt. Moises Martinez of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.
Due to Martinez's actions, no one died in the Nov. 20, 2005, shootings at the Tacoma Mall which evolved into a standoff between a 20-year-old man with an assault rifle and SWAT teams from the Tacoma police. Seven people were wounded in the shooting.
Martinez had just walked into the mall when he heard shots and saw two terrified children who he ran to and shielded while spiriting them out the building.
He then ran back into the building and found Dan McKowan, a cutlery store assistant manager bleeding profusely from five gunshot wounds. Martinez,
Trained as a combat lifesaver, Martinez took control of first aid for McKown from frightened mall employees. Though the shooter had stationed himself and his hostages in a music store only 45 feet away, Martinez remained with the victim, staunching the bleeding and keeping him calm until the shooter ultimately surrendered to police. No one died in the shootings.
McKown, still in a wheelchair a year later, attended the ceremony here and afterward recalled how Martinez had saved his life.
"Martinez lied to me," McKown joked. "He told me, 'You're going to be fine. I've been to Iraq, and I've seen far worse than this and those guys pulled through.'"
McKown's left leg remains paralyzed due to spinal injuries, but his right leg has substantially healed. The two men have become close friends in the year since the incident.
"I've told him since day one he's going to walk," Martinez said. "He's made a lot of progress. I keep telling him he's another miracle I've seen."
Martinez said he never expected this much attention, particularly from someone like the Secretary of the Army.
Harvey echoed the Army's new advertising slogan in his remarks at the presentation: "Sergeant Martinez demonstrated that he is strong enough to always do the right thing, however difficult the path."
"This award, I'm honored to receive it," Martinez said, "but I also dedicate it to those Soldiers out there who are in Iraq and Afghanistan or have served anywhere"