Soldiers’ acts of heroism don’t only occur during combat-related events, and in 1922 the War Department believed acts of bravery should be recognized during times of peace.
This led to Congress establishing an award, the Soldier’s Medal, for heroic service members who go above and beyond to help others during peacetime.
Sgt. Jeremy Pelletier, a former fire support noncommissioned officer assigned to the 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, received the Soldier’s Medal at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel on Sept. 11 for saving the lives of about 26 individuals.
“We are amidst a bona fide hero,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, 1st Cavalry Division commander, during his remarks at Pelletier’s ceremony.
Shortly after arriving home in the early morning hours of Sept. 14, 2012, he heard the sound of breaking glass outside his apartment. Upon investigation, he saw smoke pouring from his neighboring unit.
After helping his neighbor’s daughter exit the apartment safely, Pelletier began warning residents of neighboring apartments to quickly evacuate the premises.
“It was instinctual,” Pelletier said about his actions. “I had actually just started eating dinner. I didn’t notice it until afterward, but I still had a chicken bone in my mouth when it was all said and done.”
Residents said he notified the police and fire department and then started kicking in doors to wake the rest of the tenants to encourage the immediate exit of the building.
Pelletier has deployed three times to Iraq with the Ironhorse Brigade, and credits his actions during the fire to his military training.
“It wasn’t something I had to think about doing,” Pelletier said. “I only reacted.”