American Red Cross Real Heroes breakfast
From left, Pfc. Dijion Mc-Eachen, Spc. Eric Anderson, Pvt. Michael Parham, Staff Sgt. Eduardo Rodriguez, Spc. Chris Schneider and Pvt. Jonathan Mendoza sit at their place of honor at the American Red Cross Real Heroes breakfast held Feb. 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- For the first time in more than 10 years, the Central New York chapter of the American Red Cross hosted a breakfast Feb. 6 in Watertown to honor police officers, firefighters, local citizens and Fort Drum Soldiers who have done extraordinary things to serve the local community.

"We honor real people (who) have done heroic things," said Matt Michael, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross' Central New York region. "We have not had one in northern New York for more than 10 years."

"Our volunteers, on a daily basis, put someone else's needs above their own," he continued. "We want to honor people who have done that through various ways."

Eight Soldiers from G Company, 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, were honored at the breakfast for their bravery and selfless service after they rescued residents and their pets from a burning apartment building on post Oct. 31.

"It felt good to be recognized with all of these other heroes; it was a big thing for us," said Staff Sgt. Eduardo Rodriguez, senior food service noncommissioned officer and one of those recognized at the event. "It was very unexpected. We didn't think (that) after getting recognized at the battalion that we were going to get recognized again for it."

The Soldiers were conducting training at a clubhouse near apartments in the Rhicard Hills neighborhood when they realized that one of the buildings was on fire. They told a bystander to call 911 and then went into the building to evacuate residents and pets.

Without question, Rodriguez, Spc. Eric Anderson, Spc. Ronrico Philips, Spc. Chris Schneider, Spc. Khiry White, Pfc. Dijion Mc-Eachen, Pvt. Jonathan Mendoza and Pvt. Michael Parham risked their lives to save strangers. Six of the eight Soldiers received plaques from the organization, as the other two Soldiers had already departed Fort Drum for other assignments.

"We have many great stories (being shared today), but (theirs) is certainly one of the best ones," Michael said of the Soldiers being honored for their actions. "This is what these guys were trained to do, and they just automatically did it."

While their unit and the American Red Cross have recognized the Soldiers for their bravery, the group still shrugs off the significance of their actions. All of the Soldiers involved said that they did not give the event a second thought because they just wanted to do the right thing.

"When you run across a situation like this, you don't really have time to think about it," Rodriguez said.

At the breakfast, several other local heroes who were nominated by members of their community were honored along with the Soldiers. Some heroes had donated a kidney to save a friend's life; some were police officers and firefighters who went above and beyond the call of duty to save civilians in danger. However, all of the heroes being honored had one thing in common: they sacrificed their own safety for the good of others.

"The question I have for these folks is 'in that moment, what is going through your mind?" Michael said. "We all think we would do that; we would like to think we would act like that. I don't know if I would!"

Page last updated Thu February 14th, 2013 at 00:00