By Pfc. Jamal Walker, Fort Carson Public AffairsNovember 13, 2008
FORT CARSON, Colo.-A Fort Carson Dental Activity Soldier was awarded the Soldier's Medal, the highest peacetime award for a random act of bravery Oct. 27.
Staff Sgt. Jamie West, Larson Dental Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge, was recognized for rescuing three children from falling in an ice pond and pulling one of them out Feb. 23.
The Soldier's Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, including Reserve component Soldiers at the time of the heroic act, who distinguished himself or herself by heroism, not involving actual conflict with an enemy.
"Our nation is very careful who receives this award," said Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West (First Army) and Fort Carson. "This is something you do because it is the right thing to do, not because someone is watching." Graham also spoke to the children in the room and said a quote from Winnie the Pooh about bravery. "You're braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."
"The average Soldier on post would have done the same thing. I don't think I have met a Soldier who wouldn't have done the same as I did that day," said West.
West and his wife were driving to a show in Denver on the night, West noticed three children standing on the ice. The ice broke beneath the Morgan children: Victoria, Jessie and Tristan. West was left with seconds to decide his plan of action.
"I slammed on my brakes, got out of my car, took my jacket off, told my wife to call 911 and I ran down to the pond. The second step I took on the ice, I fell through," said West.
West reached the children and at that time both Tristan and Victoria were both out of the ice and were struggling to pull Jessie from the pond. West told the children to get off the pond while he pulled Jessie out of the water.
West explained, "she was wearing a very big winter jacket and it was pulling her down. When I finally was able to get to her, I noticed she was completely submerged in the water from head to toe."
West administered cold weather first aid for the Morgan children until emergency personnel arrived at the scene. Once the paramedics and the children's parents were present, West got back into the car and headed toward Denver with his wife to continue their evening plans. West had kept Jessie from a hypothermic state, thanks to his training.
"Staff Sergeant Jamie West has always been a generous NCO, continually supporting the military and civilian staff, but this act of heroism goes far beyond generosity and has proven to all of us, he truly is a courageous Soldier," said Col. Craig C. Willard, Dental Activity commander.
West was awarded the Soldier's Medal at the Elkhorn Conference Room. While being congratulated, West said, "I was in the right place at the right time. Any Soldier would have done the same or I hope someone would have done for my little girls." West stayed humble during the ceremony, but said he felt nervous at the same time.
"Everything seemed so surreal. People were calling me a hero, including my children. When I was told I was to receive the Soldier's Medal I was overwhelmed. Everything associated with the Soldier's Medal is overwhelming for me. I knew a Soldier who received the Soldier's Medal and I was surprised just thinking I would be awarded the very same award."
"The act of courage at the risk of one's own life deserves special recognition," said Rep. Doug Lamborn. "The men and women of our Armed Forces are the real heroes and the most humble who often shy away from recognition."
"We didn't expect any of this excitement and attention but our family is indebted to Staff Sergeant West. Everything he receives for saving my family he deserves," said Lenny Morgan, the children's father and former Army combat medic. "When I was in the Army, I'd never heard of the Soldier's Medal, but when I found out the requirements and that Sergeant West was to receive this award I thought, 'there is nothing better West could receive.'"
Victoria Morgan agreed saying "he deserves it" when speaking of the award.
"I acted on my instincts and emotions at the time. I can barely remember what happened, because it happened so quickly. I didn't give any thought about what to do now or what to do next. This is the ultimate award and honor. What goes into this award is incredible and I am honored to receive it," said West.