Fort Lewis, Wash. – An Army Reserve Soldier will receive the Army’s award for non-combat heroism in a ceremony to be conducted Saturday,
October 3 at 9:30 a.m.
Staff Sgt. Richard A. Giertz Jr., 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, Fort Lewis, will receive the Soldier’s Medal for risking his life to rescue 5-year-old boy from a burning house in February 15, 2009, in Tacoma Wash. The award will be presented by Brig. Gen. Joe Chestnut, Deputy Commanding General of the 416th Theatre Engineering Command, Darien, Ill.
The Soldier’s Medal was created in 1926 to honor heroism outside of combat. To be awarded, the act being recognized must have involved personal hazard or danger, the voluntary risk of life, and a degree of heroism “equal to that of the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
According to a narrative provided by his unit, Giertz was a passenger in a vehicle travelling through a Parkland-area neighborhood when the
vehicle’s driver spotted smoke coming from a house. While one of the other passengers called 911, Giertz got out of the car and approached a man who had attempted to enter through the front door, but was being forced back by the flames. Upon learning the man’s 5-year-old son was trapped inside the home. Giertz identified which bedroom the child was in from the outside, broke a window, and entered the room in search of the boy.
According to the narrative, Giertz called to the boy, heard “a faint cough,” and proceeded into the room in search of the child. He was forced back by smoke several times before locating the boy, who had fallen unconscious. After lifting the child out the broken window, Giertz carried him around the front of the house where emergency personnel were just arriving. Giertz then helped fire crew members render emergency aid to the child, and continued to assist by providing traffic control at the scene- in spite of his own need for medical treatment. He was later treated for severe smoke inhalation and lacerations suffered during the rescue.