FORT KNOX, Ky. — A Soldier with the U.S. Army Human Resources Command was awarded the prestigious Soldier’s Medal Oct. 20 here for saving the life of a woman following a fatal car accident in Muldraugh, Kentucky, a year ago.
Staff Sgt. Aschlynd Spidell-Flores, an information technology specialist assigned to the Enterprise Modernization Directorate, HRC, was driving north on U.S. Route 31W Oct. 3, 2022, when she heard a crash ahead. A few moments later she arrived at the scene of the accident where two cars had collided and hit the guard rail.
According to a Kentucky State Police, Saffire Doss was traveling north and veered into the southbound lanes and was struck by Dianna McMahan. Both vehicles came to final rest with their front ends touching the southbound guardrail facing west. Doss was pronounced deceased at the scene. McMahan’s vehicle had a significant gas leak and there were small fires just out of range of the accident.
Spidell-Flores immediately got out of her car to assist. After trying to pry open the door of Doss,’ vehicle, Spidell-Flores realized she was likely deceased and proceeded to help McMahan.
“Her car was also up to the guard rail and it was smoking,” Spidell-Flores said. “There were fires everywhere, I could hear a ticking noise and that’s what really prompted me to get her out. I guess the fluid was dripping. I could see sparks under the car, so I was like ‘if I don’t get her out of the car, this could be it.’”
Spidell-Flores pried open the passenger door and entered the car. When she leaned McMahan’s head back from the steering wheel, Spidell-Flores noticed her head injury.
“I was asking her if she was OK. When she finally responded, I told her I was going to get her out of the car,” Spidell-Flores said. “I could tell she could not move because of a [foot] injury. It looked as if her leg wasn’t attached to her foot.
“I was really frantic because I could see through the steering wheel to the outside of the car and it was catching on fire. I put my arms in an X across her chest and started to scoot [out the door], but the door wouldn’t open and I started panicking because it was hot.”
The door finally opened, and Spidell-Flores pulled McMahan to a safe distance away from her vehicle. Spidell-Flores took off her belt to make a tourniquet at the lower part of the Mcmahan’s leg to stop the bleeding and then stayed with her until medical attention arrived.
“Staff Sgt. Spidell-Flores changed the lives of a lot of people that day,” said Col. Jeanette Martin, director, Enterprise Modernization Directorate, who presented her with the Soldier’s Medal.
“This great American stops … to render assistance. That alone says a lot of this young NCO,” Martin said. “She’s providing first aid to the victim after pulling her from her vehicle, among smoke and fire with no regard for herself. She did that selflessly without any thought about ‘what if.’ So not only are we honoring a great Soldier, we’re honoring an all-around great American.”
Although she is grateful, humbled and honored, receiving the Soldier’s Medal stirs up mixed emotions, Spidell-Flores said.
“I never do anything for any accolades, I’m just doing it to help,” she said. “It’s like an umbrella of emotions — excitement and sadness. I know this ceremony wouldn’t be taking place if it [didn’t] involve somebody’s life who could no longer be here today and someone who could have potentially passed away as well.”
Spidell-Flores never thought twice about risking her life to help.
“It’s an ‘oh my God’ type of moment, like I need to get in there and get that person out of there,” she said. “I could have gotten injured. Her car was hot — when I put my forearm on the steering wheel to lean her back it was like steaming hot, but I didn’t care what I had to do to get her out — what could have happened, I didn’t care.”
McMahan presented Spidell-Flores with a thank gift for saving her life — a star with the engraved words, ‘Thank you for being my hero Aschlynd U.S. Army.’
This was the first time the two had officially met since the accident.
“The only thing I remember from the accident is her voice saying ‘we’re going to get you out of here.’ It was like the voice of an angel, it was very calm,” McMahan said. “I don’t have much memory of what happened before or after for several days. But her voice stays in my mind and I’m just very thankful she was there. It’s an overwhelming thankful feeling to finally be able to hug the neck of the person who saved my life.
“I’m so thankful to still be alive and to still be able to spend some time with my family that [Staff Sgt. Spidell-Flores] has allowed me to do,” McMahan said.
Martin said, to date, the Soldier’s Medal has only been awarded to 18,520 soldiers. Only 278 Soldiers who are currently serving on active duty wear the medal.
The Soldier’s Medal is the highest peacetime award for an act of heroism in a noncombat situation that the secretary of the Army can bestow upon a Soldier and is seventh highest in order of precedence. It is awarded to persons of the Armed Forces of the United States who have distinguished themselves by heroism for acts of bravery involving personal hazard and the voluntary risk of life not involving actual conflict with an enemy and is comparable to that of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism.
Immediately following the award ceremony, Spidell-Flores was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in accordance with her career achievements.