WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning presented the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor to United States Military Academy at West Point Historian Sherman Fleek on May 25 at the Pentagon.

To be eligible for the award, the nominee must have distinguished him or herself by exhibiting great courage or sacrifice involving heroism or bravery.

Sherman Fleek did just that.

While on leave in California in May 2015, Fleek and a friend visited an I-HOP on a Sunday afternoon. As they waited for a table, Fleek heard screams from the next room and saw women running from their chairs.

As he looked at the cashier counter, he witnessed a man holding a gun to the cashier, calling out, "Put all the money in the bag!"

After a split-second of thought, Fleek's instincts kicked in.

"Suddenly, a surge came to me," Fleek said. "I jumped up and rushed him. In the flash of that moment I recall thinking that it had been 30 years or more since I did any hand-to-hand combat training or combatives in Special Forces training."

Fleek, a retired lieutenant colonel, was able to jump on the gunman, allowing the cashier to duck behind the counter. Quickly, the gun was pointed toward Fleek's chest.

"I pushed and shoved with all my strength and moved the weapon away from me," Fleek said. "In doing this we both lost our balance and fell on the empty bench seat near the cashier counter. We continued for a moment to wrestle for control of the pistol while straddled across the bench seat. Then gaining our feet, somehow we both separated."

As they each gained their footing, the gunman ran away, leaving the restaurant patrons unharmed.
Fleek's bravery saved lives and embodied the valor that the Secretary of the Army Award represents, a dedication to excellence and commitment to selfless service.

During the award ceremony honoring Soldiers' and Army civilians' exceptional service, Fanning said that this award marks a terrific achievement.

"People are our greatest resource," Fanning said. "Our strength, the strength of this nation, has come from our values, our ethos and our people--the Soldiers and civilians we honor today epitomize the best the Army has to offer."