By Ruth KingslandJuly 25, 2017
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- For Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jesse Rhymes, it was just a typical rainy January night as he drove down the winding, rural country road.
Suddenly, the driver in front of him lost control of his vehicle, flipping over four or five times before coming to a rest upside down in a ditch. The engine of the car burst into flames.
Without a second thought, Rhymes quickly dialed 911 on his cellphone while rushing towards the burning vehicle to check for any occupants trapped inside.
The front of the vehicle was fast filling with smoke, Rhymes recalled. The victim's legs were trapped, and there was no way to extricate him from the driver's side of the vehicle. So Rhymes crawled through the passenger side window of the upside-down car.
"When the flames started coming through the windshield, I was hoping it wasn't going to blow," Rhymes said.
Rhymes managed to get the victim and himself out of the car and to safety. He administered first aid until emergency responders arrived. By then, the entire car was engulfed in flames, which firefighters were able to extinguish.
The victim was transported to a nearby hospital, and Rhymes drove himself home. During the ordeal, Rhymes managed to call his wife and let her know he'd be late for dinner.
Rhymes' quick thinking and heroism resulted in the victim's survival. To commend his actions, Rhymes received the Soldier's Medal at a ceremony at Evergreen Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, July 13.
The Soldier's Medal was introduced in 1926 and is sparingly 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, is distinguished by heroism in a noncombat event.
"This is an absolute honor for me," said Maj. Gen. Thomas James Jr., 7th Infantry Division commanding general, as he officiated the ceremony. "This is a really, really big deal. Not many people receive this award."
James talked of Rhymes' actions and the importance of service members being ready to impulsively take care of each other, on or off the battlefield.
"With total disregard for personal safety, (Rhymes) said, 'I'm in,'" James said.
Although no Soldier aims to receive an award such as this, it was humbling and an honor to be singled out, Rhymes said.
"I just did what any Soldier would do," he said. "I just knew if I didn't go in, (the victim) wasn't going to make it out.'
When he arrived home, he was covered in his own blood, from glass he'd crawled through in the vehicle. Although his wife, Sally, said she was shocked to see her husband in that condition, she wasn't surprised he'd perform such an heroic act.
"That's just the kind of person he is," she said. "I thought he was a little crazy crawling into a burning vehicle, but he's a wonderful person, a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. I'm proud, very proud of him."
Rhymes is now a special agent in charge of the CID Presidio of Monterey office in Monterey, Calif.
Rhymes and his wife have two children, who also attended the ceremony. His daughter said she was really proud of her dad and glad he was OK after saving a man's life.
"He's my hero," she said.