VICENZA, Italy - Driving with his family along Highway 59 in East Texas, Sgt. 1st Class Keith Cade watched as a pickup truck ahead swerved into the median, flipped on its side and kicked up a cloud of dust.

It was late-afternoon, Nov. 25, 2005, just outside of Marshall, Texas - Cade's hometown. The Southern European Task Force NCO, home on emergency leave from Afghanistan, pulled over and raced across traffic to help just as the overturned pickup burst into flames.

"It happened so fast," Cade said. "I never saw the danger. That never crossed my mind."

Three other men - a retired Soldier, a Marine Corp recruiter and an off-duty firefighter -also ran up. Without hesitation, the men worked together as a team to rescue the driver and her child from the burning vehicle.

"We saw the fire. One guy said, 'we don't have much time,'" Cade said. "The lady was trying to get her baby. That's when I leaned into the truck and lifted him out."

For his efforts, Cade earned the Soldier's Medal - awarded to Soldiers for heroic acts outside of enemy combat.

Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, U.S. Army Inspector General, pinned the medal on Cade's uniform during a Feb. 3 ceremony held in the office of Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa. Cade's wife and children were among roomful of officers and enlisted Soldiers who attended.

"Without regard to his own safety, Sgt. 1st Class Cade braved the fire and worked in unison with other rescuers to save two civilians," an NCO read the award citation aloud. "His personal courage and selfless service are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service."

Cade now serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the personnel section at the 509th Signal Battalion at Caserma Ederle.

His commander, Lt. Col. Joe Angyal, said he learned it often takes time to collect supportive evidence and to run paperwork for the medal through proper channels. In this case, it took three years.

Cade is a great leader, Angyal said, who relied attributes inherent in outstanding NCOs.

"His training and instincts kicked in," Angyal said. "You go with what you know."

Cade knows Soldiers who fought and died in combat, an act he considers more heroic than his, he said. In fact, Cade speaks humbly about his actions, saying that he simply did what he had to, when faced with tough situation.

"I guess it's about staying calm under pressure," Cade said "When people are in need, you don't think a lot about your own safety."