By Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth A. Foss January 23, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- In the face of danger, some may falter, but Soldiers of the Warrior Brigade possess qualities that set them apart from the rest.
Two noncommissioned officers with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), received the highest award for valor in a noncombat situation -- the Soldier's Medal -- during an awards ceremony held Thursday at Fort Drum's Monti Physical Fitness Center.
Sgt. Roy Arcentales and Sgt. Caleb Walters, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, attempted to save the life of their friend and fellow Soldier, Sgt. Anthony R. Maddox, after a fuel fire accident occurred last July in eastern Afghanistan.
Despite engulfing flames and the threat of losing their own lives, Arcentales and Walters put the life of another before the welfare of their own, epitomizing the meaning of the Warrior Ethos: "Never leave a fallen comrade."
"These two Soldiers' actions demonstrated and inspired leadership, valor and heroism," said Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander.
The Soldier's Medal is the highest award for valor in a noncombat situation that a service member can receive. It is only awarded to Soldiers who displayed a high level of heroism.
"These Soldiers here today join 39 others, only 39, who have been awarded the Soldier's Medal during Operation Enduring Freedom," Townsend said.
The battalion had three heroes that day, one of whom, Pfc. Kyle M. Bigue, could not attend the ceremony. He will be recognized for his actions at a later date.
"It's truly humbling, as the commander of the 10th Mountain Division, to be in the same outfit with Soldiers like this," Townsend said.
It was humbling for the awardees in a different way. To them, the medals serve as a reminder of their friend and sit atop their ribbon racks as a representation of a fallen hero.
"There is not a day that goes by where I don't think about Maddox; this is just a reminder that will allow him to live on through our memories," Walters said.
Soldiers undoubtedly concern themselves with the question, "How will I react in the face of danger?" These Soldiers answered the big question.
"I just ran in. I wasn't concerned with safety; I was just trying to help one of my own," Walters said. "I think it's second nature."
While one of the Soldiers being recognized thought it was in his nature to respond the way he did, the other gave credit to his training in the Army and the ethos and values instilled within him by the organization he serves.
Arcentales said that it was his training and the Warrior Ethos having been instilled within him that guided his immediate actions. "I truly believe in that," he said.
"I don't think I could have done this by myself either," Arcentales said. "It was teamwork; it was an effort from everyone who helped as much as they could.
"That made me feel more at ease," he added, "knowing there was somebody looking out for me too."
Regardless of what drove these Soldiers to react, whether it be natural reaction or their Army training, they acted heroically.
"The actions described in the citations for these awards are examples of the purest heroism," Townsend said.