FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Soldiers in the U.S. Army never know when they will be called on to protect and serve the people of the U.S. This was especially true for Spc. David Sanchez-Diaz late one Sunday night in October 2019.

Sanchez-Diaz, a team leader in the 509th Clearance Company, was returning to Fort Leonard Wood from visiting his fiancé in St. Louis when he witnessed a car accident. Instead of driving on as many people tend to do, he stepped in to save the life of one of the passengers.

He was recognized Feb. 3 by the 5th Engineer Battalion for this heroic action. Lt. Col. Brandon Bowman presented Sanchez-Diaz with an Army Commendation Medal, a decoration awarded for heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service.

According to Sanchez-Diaz, the accident occurred in front of him just as he drove onto Interstate 44.

"I was merging onto the highway and I saw a semi-truck and all of a sudden sparks started shooting out and it started curving on the road," Sanchez-Diaz said. "It basically jackknifed and started hitting the barrier."

When another car on the road couldn't slow down in time and collided with the trailer of the truck, Sanchez-Diaz pulled off of the road and rushed over to assist the passengers of the car.

"I got out of my car and two other guys got out of theirs and we ran over to the car," he said. "The passenger was kind of just scared but nothing too bad. It was the husband who was completely knocked out. I remember I looked down and his hand -- a piece of metal had come through the car from the crash and the metal had went through his hand and cut it open all the way to his palm."

After assessing the situation, Sanchez-Diaz quickly reacted by getting medical supplies from his car and provided lifesaving care to the injured individual. He stood by until medical professionals arrived and then went to the hospital to provide a statement.

"We got (to the hospital) and they came out and basically told me that if I had not put that tourniquet on him he only had like two or three more minutes until he would have bled out," Sanchez-Diaz said.

Sanchez-Diaz credits the first-aid skills he learned in a two-week combat life saver course he took prior to a deployment and concurrent training given to him by medics in his organization.

"It was kind of like instinct I guess," he said. "I didn't really think about it -- I just ran back to my truck because I had (medical supplies) with me."

The next day, Sanchez-Diaz's command team learned about his heroics.

"I learned that he saved a life when visiting their project site and a fellow Soldier in the equipment platoon off-handily said, 'Sir, Sanchez should have the day off -- he saved a guy's life this weekend,'" said Capt. David Hoy, 509th Clearance Company commander. "Sanchez-Diaz is a humble professional. He saved a man's life and the very next day he was on a project site improving obstacles at Training Area 98. Sanchez-Diaz is an outstanding member of the Profession of Arms. He is committed on and off duty and is a great example of the type of Soldiers who comprise the 509th Renegades, 5th Engineer Battalion Fighters and 36th Engineer Brigade Rugged Soldiers."