EASTOVER, S.C. - While driving home from National Guard duty on Feb. 9, 2013, Chaplain (Capt.) Kyle Franklin witnessed an accident that would change his life forever.
On the way home from training with his unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-151st Security and Support Aviation Battalion, South Carolina Army National Guard, in Eastover South Carolina, Franklin witnessed a two car head-on collision. Almost instantaneously, one of the vehicles caught fire.
"I have no doubt God put me at that location at that time for a reason," said Franklin. "I had never taken that road before. It was so isolated."
Without regard for his own safety, Franklin reached in and pulled the driver of one vehicle out. That driver was seriously injured and unable to move.
He soon discovered the passenger was also trapped and worried if she was alive, as she was badly injured and unconscious.
"I'll never forget the look in Todd's eyes as I saw him in the truck. He was calm, alert, and not anxious," said Franklin. "He said, 'please help me, I don't want to die. I don't want to burn.'"
Franklin said he felt the presence of God at that moment and knew his purpose was to get Todd out of the burning vehicle.
"His next words to me were to promise not to give up on April, his passenger," he added.
Franklin risked his own safety to remove the unconscious passenger from the crushed vehicle, even though the intensity of the flames and smoke were increasing. He was able to maneuver her legs from under the crumpled dashboard and free her from the safety belt system, and ultimately dragged her from the burning vehicle.
"I was worried she was not alive," said Franklin. "Her legs were so entangled in the wreckage. We were actually overjoyed when we heard her moan when I moved her crushed feet. It must have been painful, but we knew she was still alive."
Upon removing the occupants from the burning vehicle, Franklin advanced to the second vehicle and rendered first aid until the Columbia Fire Department arrived.
For his heroic actions that day, Franklin was presented with the Soldiers Medal during a ceremony May 3, 2015, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina.
Joining him for the award presentation were family, fellow Guard members, members of the Columbia Fire Department, and two of the passengers whose lives he saved, Todd and April.
"It was the first responders and fire department who extracted the other two passengers and even had to fly them on life flight because their injuries were so serious," said Franklin.
"We are thankful for his actions, as what he did most certainly changed our mission from a recovery mission to a rescue mission," said Rodney Jenkins, Columbia Fire Department chief. "They would certainly not be with us today if he had not been there at that moment."
The Soldier's Medal was established in 1926 and denotes acts of heroism in non-combat situations. It can be awarded to any person in the Armed Forces whose actions involve personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not with an armed enemy.
"A hero is someone who sacrifices for someone else. For those who wear a uniform, including all first responders, they are our heroes every day," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general for South Carolina. "It is what they do in extraordinary circumstances that raises that level of heroism."
Livingston looked to the group of Columbia firefighters who were in attendance and personally thanked them for service every day and for demonstrating the sense of community between them, and for responding that day with Franklin.
"What Kyle did was so typical of him," said Livingston. "He is that type of person who will always find a way to take better care of those around him."
At the conclusion of the presentation of the Soldiers Medal, Franklin received a standing ovation.
"God had a purpose for me that day," said Franklin. "I was just doing what I was supposed to do."