On one fateful November day, while others stood around calling 911 on cell phones in the midst of a huge apartment fire, one Fort Gordon soldier took action which saved a veteran's life.
Though she said what happened that day was just another day in the life of a soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Christine Gilson was honored for her actions by her superiors and comrades Friday.
Col. William David, the commander of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, presented her with the Soldier's Medal, one of the highest awards for heroism in non-combat situations.
The 42-year-old Louisiana native beamed before the television cameras after the presentation in Alexander Hall but was matter-of-fact and humble in her acceptance.
"I wasn't just going to stand around there and let someone perish," said Sgt. 1st Class Gilson, who is with the 297th Military Intelligence Battalion.
After 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6, 2005, the fire broke out at the Executive Suites Inn in the 3600 block of Deans Bridge Road.
It was the day after the 297th had returned from a stressful deployment from Iraq - during which soldiers were injured and at least one died.
Everyone was looking forward to a little bit of rest, the sergeant first class said.
She heard knocking on the window of her neighbor, Lee Nottingham, 43 - and at first thought there was a fight.
But then she realized that someone was trying to get Mr. Nottingham out of his locked apartment after the building caught fire.
After a night manager went to get a flashlight to see, she retrieved her own and went inside to find Mr. Nottingham lying unconscious behind his front door.
She dragged him out of harm's way.
Mr. Nottingham had severe burns over two-thirds of his body and was treated for several days at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, Sgt. 1st Class Gilson said.
Unfortunately, she's lost touch with the man she dragged to safety. After being treated at local medical facilities, Mr. Nottingham was transferred to a Department of Veterans Affairs facility out of state.
Sgt. 1st Class Gilson said she hasn't been able to learn where he was sent, because she isn't a family member.
But she said she was glad to give him a fighting chance to stay alive.
Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The octagonal Soldier's Medal can be awarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces for acts of heroism not in combat with the enemy or during peacetime. The heroic act or acts must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life.
Source: Institute of Military Heraldry, Department of Defense
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