Sgt. 1stClass Levon Fernandez received the Army’s highest honor for peacetime valor on May 7 — the Soldier’s Medal — for his actions in the aftermath of the crash of a Honduran military aircraft.
According to the official citation, the Fresno, Calif., native was talking to fellow soldiers with the S6 (communications and information-technology support) unit at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, on Aug. 16, when he saw a Honduran air force L410 aircraft crash into the headquarters building after striking power lines and a telephone pole.
Attached to 1stBattalion, 22th Aviation Regiment, Charlie Company, Joint Task Force Bravo, Fernandez is a flight paramedic by training. Using the first-aid gear he had with him, he quickly moved to the area of the crash and urged bystanders to stay away from power lines and fuel that spilled from the aircraft.
With the help of several other medics, Fernandez began treating the plane’s severely injured fliers as soon as he reached them, even as fuel was spurting out on them. He was able to carry the flight engineer to safety, but the team had trouble extracting the other two fliers from the wreckage. He then climbed into the mangled cockpit, and with the help of his comrades, began tearing debris away. In time, once first responders arrived, they worked together to save the crew. They successfully rescued two fliers, but the third took hours to extract and died before they could get him out.
“There were plenty of guys there who were taking just as much risk as I was. I don’t consider myself a hero,” Fernandez said. “This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the rest of the Charlie Company and the rest of the 228 guys who were out there, also putting their lives in jeopardy to save a life.”