FORT LEE, VA. - Many influences spurred Staff Sgt. Joshua Carter’s decision to run toward a water-filled underpass to help three stranded people Aug. 15.His parents taught him to show compassion for people who didn’t have the same opportunities in life and to put the world in a better place than it was the day before. The Soldier’s Creed and Army values enhanced those lessons when he joined the military and shaped him into a leader who takes charge in tough situations. There’s also his deep faith in God and a belief that he was meant to be at that place at the right time.“I’d like to say that anyone would have done the same thing,” said the 832nd Ordnance Battalion operations noncommissioned officer. “I definitely would like to think any other Soldier, present or retired, would do it. That’s where we as Soldiers come in. It’s not always combat, it’s the everyday operations, and making sure we make the people around us better, whether they wear a uniform or not.“My parents taught me from a young age that being a human is more than just living; it’s helping others,” he further observed. “There’s also no denying the divine part of it. God had me leave the (school) at the time I did, take the exit I did and be on the highway at the time I was for a reason.“I’m just glad I was there at the right time,” he said.Carter is attending the Senior Leader Course at the Logistics NCO Academy on Fort Lee. He had to come in that Saturday to take a test. He finished and left the installation around 11:15 a.m. After merging onto Interstate 95 from exit 50, he saw traffic was at a standstill and everyone was moving to the far left lane. When he pulled up, he saw a number of people stopped and taking photos. He saw more of them standing and looking over the bridge off exit 52 – three of them were dangling a ratchet strap toward the ground. The Soldier pulled his car into the median to see what was happening.“When I got about 100 yards from the bridge and the water underneath it, I heard somebody shouting there’s a lady stuck in her car and she couldn’t swim. So, I took my jacket off and ran down to the water.“I saw a lady in the driver’s seat. The water was up near her neck, and she was holding her purse above her head just staring forward not doing anything,” Carter said. “This other gentleman came up behind me, and we both jumped into the water.”They swam to the car, wrestled the door open against the water and removed the lady from her vehicle. Once out of the water, they put her into a bystander’s car and used blankets to warm her up.“I then went back into the water, as there was a couple in (an SUV) stuck a little further ahead. I got them out of there safely,” Carter said. “I stayed for another 10-to-15 minutes to make sure nobody needed medical attention. Once the state trooper pulled up, I left.”This incident brings to mind the safety slogan “Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” which had been recited by multiple news agencies and community safety offices in the days prior due to persistent rain storms and the potential for flash flooding. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to ignore or underestimate the warnings.“When I got them out of the water, the younger couple who was in the Yukon said it did not look that high,” Carter recalled. “When the SUV got stuck and the water began (pouring in), they were too scared to exit the vehicle. They were just waiting for help.”The unknown rescuer who helped Carter with the first victim remains a mystery. He left shortly after getting the lady to dry land.“I never got his name, and we didn’t exchange words,” Carter said. “It was like we were on the same page. We swam out there, opened the door together, got her out and to safety, then he was gone.”Carter doesn’t consider himself a hero. In his mind, the circumstances of the day were shaped by a higher power, and he was chosen to execute what God had put in front of him. At the scene, the NCO leader part of him screamed “go do it and get it done,” but reflection afterward tells him he probably would have been wiser to slow down just a bit.“I probably should have done more assessing than what I did at that moment,” he admitted. “I do consider myself a strong swimmer. If that wasn’t the case, just jumping into the water would not be the best course of action. My message to other Soldiers in any situation like this is to take a moment to assess the situation and use your strong points without taking unnecessary risks.”Sgt. 1st Class Delvin Shinn is one of Carter’s SLC instructors who said he wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear about the weekend rescue.“Staff Sgt. Carter is one of those NCOs who’s always trying to lend a helping hand to those who need help. He puts it out there to let them know, ‘if you need help, I’m here.’” Shinn observed.“I’ve only known Staff Sgt. Carter for about three weeks, but that’s my interpretation of him. (The rescue) is something I know he would do. If I was in danger, I know he’d come to help me out as well.”