MILFORD, Mass. – Two Massachusetts Army National Guardsmen, who recently saved a women’s life, were awarded the Massachusetts Medal of Merit in a ceremony Dec. 19, 2008 in Agawam, Mass.
2nd Lt. Brian Shaffer and Spc. James Brown, both assigned to A Co., 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, saved the life of a 71-year-old woman who was overcome by carbon monoxide caused by a generator at her home in Blandford, Mass.
Soldiers from A Co. were called to state active duty for storm relief efforts and sent to Blandford to conduct door-to-door well-being checks of homes that were left without power by an ice storm Dec. 11.
At midnight on Dec. 14, a man went to the Blandford Emergency Operations Center and told Shaffer he thought his wife was deceased at their home. Shaffer alerted firemen, who assessed the man and questioned him about his wife’s location. Shaffer, Brown and members of the Blandford Fire Department went to the man’s residence and found the woman unconscious on the floor.
“I started CPR and Specialist Brown came and assisted me,” said Shaffer. “I am a trained fire fighter, but my combat life saver skills were all that were required to help her. Brown is certified as a combat life saver and we had excellent crew coordination.”
Maj. General Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, presented the Massachusetts Medal of Merit to Shaffer and Brown in front of the members of A Co.
“She is alive today because of what these Soldiers were able to do in an emergency,” said Carter. “Our Airmen and Soldiers act with notable bravery everyday. Not all acts measure up to the Medal of Merit.”
Members of the armed forces of the commonwealth can be awarded the Massachusetts Medal of Merit for distinguishing themselves with marked service of national or state significance.
“It’s not the kind of thing you expect to do, it gives me the jitters when I think about it. I feel honored to get this award, especially from General Carter. It’s not everyday you get an award from a general,” said Brown.
On day eight of relief operations, the Massachusetts National Guard continued to clear debris, provide power generation, water, security, communications, shelter and perform welfare checks. The Massachusetts National Guard continued to serve affected communities as relief efforts transition back to local capabilities.
More than 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen were called to state active duty for Operation Big Ice. These Guardsmen cleared debris from over 850 miles of roadway, assisted 455,000 residents in 53 communities, and conducted 3,000 door-to-door, well-being checks. Soldiers and Airmen have assisted at 21 shelters supporting 1,400 displaced citizens even though many of their families have been affected by the storm.
More than 8,300 Soldiers and Airmen volunteer as members of the Massachusetts National Guard to safeguard the commonwealth’s people and property. Currently, 350 Massachusetts Soldiers and Airmen are deployed overseas in support of the Global War on Terror. Guardsmen, like Shaffer and Brown, from across Massachusetts will continue to assist local communities as long as needed and have been doing so since the inception of the National Guard 372 years ago, continuing the proud tradition of serving their community while seamlessly protecting the world.