Guardsman receives Medal of Valor for saving life
July 12, 2010
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Army News Service, July 12, 2010) -- An Army National Guard officer received the South Carolina Medal of Valor June 19 after saving the life of a man ejected from his truck when it was struck by a train.
Lt. Col. Larry M. Peeples, commander of the South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Brigade Support Battalion in Varnville, S.C., said his combat-lifesaving training in Iraq paid off on the morning of Sept. 22, 2009.
"In my rear view mirror, I could see the train and I looked to my left and a log truck came to the crossing 100 yards ahead of the train and at that point, the log truck would have to hurry and get across or backup. As he tried to backup, he choked the vehicle down and it stopped on the tracks," said Peeples during an interview with a local news channel. "I saw the driver struggling to backup the vehicle. I realized he wasn't going to make it."
At that point the unimaginable happened right before his eyes. The train struck the truck on the passenger side with enough force it destroyed the massive tractor.
"I saw the train hit the logging truck. It blew the truck in four different directions," Peeples remembered.
Pieces of the log truck were scattered all over the area: the front axle landed in a ditch and one of the fenders was found later near the front of the train.
Even after witnessing such a shocking crash, Peeples did not hesitate. Knowing that time was of the essence, Peeples acted quickly.
"I called 9-1-1 and then I said 'Well I'm going to go back and see if anyone lived through that.' I had to jump over the train to get to the truck. I first looked in the cab, but he wasn't there. Then I saw him in the ditch near a telephone pole," Peeples said.
The impact ejected the driver through the windshield and into a chain link fence before finally landing in a ditch.
Once Peeples got to the severely injured man, he immediately began life-saving first aid.
Peeples recalled the horrific scene. He said he applied pressure to two of the major wounds that were bleeding. The driver tried to move on multiple occasions. Peeples could tell the driver's right leg was broken.
"I did the best I could for him. I didn't have everything I needed because I was in my civilian vehicle, but as soon as the medical emergency folks showed up, they gave me some stuff to work on him with," he said.
Peeples says while he's seen a lot in his days, he will never forget this.
The citation for his medal reads:
"For extraordinary heroism on Sept. 22, 2009, after witnessing first-hand a locomotive hitting and completely destroying a tractor trailer, Lt. Col. Peeples did not hesitate to act. Without thought of his own safety, Lt. Col. Peeples rushed to the scene of the horrific accident. Disregarding the danger of explosion, Lt. Col. Peeples crossed over the railroad tracks and the train. He then found the seriously injured driver in the wreckage and immediately began life-saving first aid. His lack of hesitation and skillful applications of first aid undoubtedly saved the life of the driver."
(Capt. Tim Irvin is a PAO for the 218th MEB.)