A member of the Kentucky Air National Guard received the Airman’s medal – the Air Force’s highest honor for voluntary non-combat valor – for helping save the lives of victims who were in a car crash near Louisville in November 2018. Master Sgt. Daniel Keller, a special operator with the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, had previously earned the Air Force Cross for his actions while serving in combat in Afghanistan.
In his more recent act of bravery, Keller quickly moved to help victims of two vehicles that were involved in the crash. After helping a father and son get out of one vehicle, he went to the second vehicle – which had caught fire – and noticed that the driver was unconscious.
The airman sought assistance from other drivers who were passing by, and came up with a plan to save the driver of the burning vehicle.
“With complete disregard for his own safety, he broke the rear window and entered the burning vehicle,” the citation stated.
As Keller held his breath and tried to free the victim, he noticed that the person’s leg was trapped in the wreckage. With the help of a woman who had stopped to assist him, Keller managed to squeeze into the vehicle between the passenger door and a guard rail and move the victim out through the window. In the meantime, the woman who was helping him also became stuck – between the burning vehicle’s door and the guard rail. Keller went back to the burning vehicle and freed the woman. The two then began performing CPR on the victim.
At that point, however, Keller heard gunshots. He realized that the stricken vehicle contained ammunition, which began to explode in the fiery heat. He moved everyone away from the burning vehicle, remained at the site and continued to provide first aid until emergency responders arrived.
“I am by no means a medical expert of any sort,” Keller said, citing the value of his special-operations training when confronted with a situation like the one he faced that November evening.
“We try to get our guys to the point where they’re always either going to fight or fly – because freezing isn’t ever going to do you any favors,” Keller said. “And in this scenario, we fought.”