Paratrooper saves gunner from burning Humvee
February 16, 2010
By Tina Ray
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Feb. 16, 2010) -- Two acts of bravery saved the life of a Soldier, whom others said most definitely would have died had it not been for the heroic action.
On May 17 in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, 1st Lt. Luis Reyes twice entered a burning Humvee to rescue his injured gunner, Spc. Robert Mayes. The two men were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Not only was their Humvee hit by an improvised explosive device, but the vehicle began to burn after the ammunition stored between its rear seats exploded after a projectile struck it following the first attack, said Col. David Buckingham, squadron commander of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment.
"There is no question that Lieutenant Reyes' valor in entering the burning vehicle, then re-entering the vehicle after the explosion of the ammunition, saved Specialist Mayes' life," said Buckingham, who pinned the Bronze Star with Valor medal on Reyes' chest Feb. 12.
Mayes' left leg had been badly injured by the projectile while the exploding ammunition burned Reyes' face. Buckingham said Mayes would not have made it out of the burning vehicle had it not been for Reyes valorous conduct.
"He's my lifeline. He saved my life," Mayes said following the ceremony. "He did his job. He did what he was supposed to do and showed the leadership that he was trained to do."
"That kind of leadership is not uncommon in the 82nd Airborne Division," said Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps commander. He said that Reyes' instincts not to leave a fallen comrade behind took over and compelled him to rescue his brother-in-arms from a burning vehicle.
"I knew he was hurt and couldn't get out, so priority one was to get that man out of that situation," said Reyes, who joined the Army two and a half years ago.
(Tina Ray serves on the staff of the Fort Bragg Paraglide.)