Army

September 13, 2012

Sergeant receives Soldier’s Medal for saving two children

EL MONTE, Calif. — Sgt. James B. Bennett was presented the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional heroism during an awards ceremony at the El Monte, Calif., U.S. Army Reserve Center, Sept. 8.

The Soldier’s Medal was awarded to Bennett for his actions in Fresno, Calif., Jan. 28, when he and his father, James D. Bennett, saved the lives of two children by pulling them from a burning car.

Narration of the event read in part: “Sgt. Bennett and his father stopped to render aid when the vehicle containing the family burst into flames. Sgt. Bennett and his father without regard to their own safety began to struggle to release the two children from their car seats. Sgt. Bennett was able to unwrap the young girl from her seat belt and free her. He took the girl to safety and turned to the car so he could help his father try to free the boy. They were unable to release the seat belt holding the boy. After desperately trying, they were able to use a pocket knife to cut the belt and free the boy. They then tried to free the mother and father as the flames grew, but were unable to get them out….”

Unfortunately the parents were already killed on impact, but the two children, 1-year-old Saleena Lopez and 2-year-old-Paul Lopez were saved with no permanent injuries.

The Bennett family have remained an important part of the children’s lives since the accident, as made apparent during the ceremony, which was attended by Lopez family members and the two saved children – who were never seen more than a few steps away.

“They asked us to be the godparents within days of the incident,” said Bennett.

Bennet and his wife baptized and became godparents to Saleena. Bennett’s father became the godfather of Paul Lopez.

Maria Lopez, the children’s aunt, said Bennett and his family visit often, traveling five hours from Southern California to Central California where the children now live with their grandparents, who are currently going through the process of adopting the toddlers.

Bennett shrugs off most of the attention insisting his reaction was the same anyone would have had.

“I think any Soldier would react the same way,” said Sgt. Bennett. “You never forget what you learn.”

“I was just on vacation wearing shorts and a basketball t-shirt,” he said. “When we first stopped I didn’t know what to expect.”

Still, he knows that his actions, and that of his father, saved two lives that night.

“If we hadn’t stopped, by the time the next car drove by it would have been too late, he said.”

During the ceremony, Bennett was overwhelmed by the attention given him by the community, dignitaries, and his new unit, the 250th Transportation Company. This was Bennett’s first day in the 250th and back in the Army Reserve after leaving active duty two months ago.

“All these people were here to see me? I did not expect that,” said Bennett, highlighting his humble demeanor.

Bennett’s former commander, Col. Carolyn Birchfield, commander of the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, headquartered in Fort Bliss, Texas, flew to California to present the award.

“I think it was incredibly important to be here in person,” said Birchfield. “The Soldier’s Medal is a very rare thing.”

The Soldier’s Medal is only presented to individuals who distinguish themselves by heroism, not involving conflict or the enemy, but involving a personal hazard or danger and voluntarily putting their life at risk. It is given precedence above the Bronze Star and just below the Distinguished Flying Cross.

With tears in many of their eyes, the Lopez family stood side-by-side with Bennett and his family as the award was pinned on.

Maria Lopez, who was attending her first military ceremony, said she was thinking about her sister, the children’s mother, the entire time.

“Thanks to him, we still have the kids,” she said.

For more information, go to www.irwin.army.mil




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Gustavo Bahena

NTC leadership honors DA civilians, Soldiers, NCOs

Gustavo Bahena National Training Center and Fort Irwin Commander Maj. Gen. Ted Martin pins an Army Commendation Medal on the uniform of Sgt. Joseph Bailey, Non-commissioned Officer of the Year for fiscal year 2014 during a cere...
 
 

Celebrating a century of life, history, culture

The National Training Center and Fort Irwin invites the community to celebrate African American/Black History Month at Sandy Basin Community Center at 11:30 a.m., Feb. 11. The theme for this year’s observance is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.” The theme was proclaimed by the 100-year-old organization, Association for the Study of African...
 
 
Winkfield_leads_march

My transformation

A well-known Department of the Army civilian here, and friend of many, spoke at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration, Jan. 7. John Winkfield, director of the National Training Center Equal Employment Opportunity office, s...
 

 
Photo by Gustavo Bahena, Public Affairs Office

Tough love in this harsh, beautiful desert

Photo by Gustavo Bahena, Public Affairs Office The commander of Fort Irwin Dental Clinic Command, Col Todd Kimura, and his daughter, Hannah, participated in the December Resiliency Week chili cook-off with their recipe, “Boil...
 
 

Defeat Monster Mouth!

February is Children’s Dental Health Month and at the Fort Irwin Pediatric Dental Clinic we love to see kids smile! Here are some tips to help keep those smiles sparkling. Brush: Brushing twice daily with toothpaste that contains fluoride is an important part of your child’s routine. Fluoridated toothpaste may be used as early as...
 
 

News Briefs February 6, 2015

Ongoing Tax filing services. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. Tax center, building 230. Free tax services available to active duty military personnel (including Reserves and National Guard on orders for 30 days or more), their dependents, and military retirees. Call 380-3604. feb 11 African American/Black History Month Celebration. 11:30 a.m. – 1...
 




One Comment


  1. […] High Desert Warrior » Army 1 min ago by in Fort Irwin. You can follow any responses to this entry through the | RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin