By Master Sgt. Brian HamiltonSeptember 7, 2018
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Selfless service is one of the core Army values. Soldiers go further, endure more, and always place their team before themselves, especially in the face of nearly insurmountable danger.
On May 13, 2018, U.S. Army Soldiers Sgt. 1st Class Mario King and Sgt. Adriane King, husband and wife, demonstrated this value of selfless service as they were returning to Fort Knox from Atlanta on Interstate 75. A few yards in front of them, a tractor trailer loaded with 8,000 gallons of fuel abruptly jack-knifed to avoid hitting a swerving car, rolled several times down the road and burst into flames.
Adriane, an Information Technology Specialist with the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, located at Fort Knox, immediately pulled over. Mario, an Information Technology Specialist career advisor, also with HRC, ran over to see how he could help.
"The driver of the car was standing in the middle of the road so I ran up to him to see if he was alright," Mario said. "I could tell right away that he was dazed so I helped him to the side of the road out of the way."
As flames began to engulf the truck, Mario noticed the cab of the truck was overturned with the driver trapped inside. He left the driver of the car with another bystander and ran toward the burning vehicle to see how he could help.
"You could hear the tires of the truck exploding and the flames were getting closer and closer to the cab of the truck. I knew we had to get the driver out quick," he said.
Adriane, who stayed off to the side, saw how dangerous the situation was and yelled for Mario to hurry.
Mario and two others tried desperately to get the driver, Burl (Doug) Bowling, out before the flames reached the cab. They attempted at first to beat the windows out of the cab with a pipe, but to no avail.
Just then, Mario noticed Bowling, who was pinned inside, began pushing down the side window.
"He said he couldn't move his legs," Mario said. "The flames were coming for the cab quickly so I had to take the opportunity to get him out while I could. So I just lifted him from the waist and was able to pull him out."
Mario managed to drag Bowling about 150 feet to safety.
"Once I got him out of the truck, I just dragged him as far as I could," he said. "I don't know what it was, truthfully. I just had the mindset that I had to get this guy out so I said I'm going to give it a try. Thankfully it went well for everybody."
Miraculously, both the drivers of the car and the fuel truck survived the accident and are recovering.
"As soon as SFC King got me out of the truck, he moved so fast that the other people helping had to run to catch up with us," said Bowling. "People like him are rare -- not just anyone would have rushed toward a flaming tanker -- [and] I'll appreciate him for the rest of my life."
Mario was awarded the Soldier's Medal Sept. 7, during a ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. Jason T. Evans, HRC commanding general, for his heroism that fateful day. The Soldier's Medal is the highest medal the Secretary of the Army can bestow during peacetime.
"This is a great honor," Mario said. "I am fourth generation military and countless members of my family have served this country. I could never have imagined this day when I joined the Army more than 16 years ago."
The ceremony was a testament to the Army value of selfless service displayed by Soldiers like him everyday.
"SFC King rushed to the sound of danger, as any Soldier would have done, on or off-duty. He makes us all proud as U.S. Army Soldiers and as Americans," Evans said. "There is no doubt that his heroism, bravery, and risk to personal safety all make him worthy of this honor."
In the end, a humbled Mario said he was grateful to be able to be in the right place at the right time and help Bowling, someone he didn't even know.
"We live the Army values and that one value, that one day, stood out," Mario said. "You don't have to know them. They don't have to be your battle buddy, your friend or even your family. If someone is in need, you step in and help them out. That's how I live each day."