Soldier honored for pulling man out of burning car

Photo courtesy of Tony Sailer

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Jesse Rhymes may have more opportunities to be a hero than most of us.

He is a chief warrant officer in the Army, but it was what he did in civilian life that had Rhymes declared a hero on Thursday.

Eighteen months ago, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rhymes was driving along Steilacoom Road in Thurston County when the driver in front of him lost control and rolled several times. Rhymes called 911, but in seconds he had to make a decision with a life hanging in the balance.

"I could see the driver in there upside down," he recalled on Thursday.

The car had gone off the road and into a ravine. The driver was barely conscious.

As Rhymes made his way to the vehicle, the engine block suddenly went up in flames.

“I just knew there was no way he was going to get out by himself,” Rhymes said. “It was getting too hot and the flames were getting too high for him to make it out on his own. So I went in to do what I could to get him out.”

Rhymes climbed into the SUV as it filled with smoke. He reached the driver, freed him and got him to a window. There Rhymes and another person pulled the driver out.

"He was very confused. He didn't know what was going on," Rhymes said.

But the driver was alive. Rhymes made it out with minor cuts and bruises. EMT’s treated the driver at the scene, and believe he went into diabetic shock behind the wheel.

"I'm just glad I was there."

On Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Army honored Rhymes with the Soldier's Medal. It's the highest honor a soldier can receive for valor outside of combat. Only 18,000 have been given in the past century.

It was no surprise to Rhyme's family, especially his wife, Sally.

"This is just something that he would do. He would do that for anyone," she said.

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