A Special Forces soldier has been awarded the coveted Soldier’s Medal for pulling a man out of a flaming vehicle seconds before it exploded. In April 2017, Sergeant 1st Class Erik Kingsley was driving toward Raleigh airport in North Carolina. In the vehicle, alongside him, were his wife, two daughters, and airman brother-in-law. It was very early in the morning (03:30), and the highway was light on traffic.

Suddenly, Sgt. 1st Class Kingsley spotted a disabled vehicle in a ditch next to the highway. He decided to pull over and provide assistance. What he saw, however, was a situation that was quickly becoming life-threatening: the driver was unconscious, and his foot was slamming the accelerator. Moreover, the disabled car was covered in briar thickets that were starting to catch fire from the friction caused by the overheated engine. Sgt. Kingsley directed his wife to immediately call 911 and his brother-in-law to relocate their vehicle — where his two daughters were asleep — to a safer distance.

In an interview with the Army Times, Sgt. Kingsley said that “the embers were already starting to shoot from the bottom of the vehicle. . . “I grabbed the guy, I put him on my shoulders, I started walking out, and the vehicle exploded.”

The force of the explosion knocked them to the ground. The Green Beret, then, grabbed the unconscious driver and led him to safety at the side of the highway. He then proceeded to perform a medical assessment on the man. Aside from some bruises and cuts, he was unscathed. Sgt. Kingsley later discovered that the man had been drunk and had passed out whilst driving.

No one aside from the emergency responders and his family would have known about his valour on the early April morning if the state troopers hadn’t notified his command. Sgt. Kingsley hadn’t mentioned anything, sticking to the “Quiet Professionals” unofficial motto of the Special Forces.

And thus, Sgt. Kingsley, who is an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS), received the Soldier’s Medal.

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Sergeant 1st Class Erik Kingsley upon receiving the Soldier’s Medal (DVIDS).

First established in 1926, the Soldier’s Medal is the highest award for valour a serviceman can earn outside of combat. According to the Department of the Army, the “Soldier’s Medal is 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, including Reserve Component soldiers not serving in a duty status at the time of the heroic act, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving conflict with an enemy.”