A Hero at Home or Away

Written by Spc. Kelly K. Collett  - Published - Sept. 21, 2004


Photo by Spc. Kelly Collett

Spc. Josh Lee received the Utah Medal of Valor by risking his life to save a woman from a burning vehicle.

Spc. Josh Lee is a soldier in the Utah Army National Guard.  He has been deployed overseas with the 1457th Combat Engineer Battalion.   Josh recently returned home in May of 2004 with all of his friends and comrades.  None were left behind.  These words would stay with him the rest of his life.


I served with Spc. Lee in Baghdad.  I noticed that he was always willing to do whatever was asked of him.  He never complained, even when many others griped about conditions.  Lee was always there to lend a hand.  He prided himself in staying physically fit.  Others noticed, and asked if he would help them to obtain the same stature.  Lee was more than willing to help them and watch them every step of their progression.


Another thing I noticed was that others looked up to him and respected him.  His physical state was not his only attribute.  He thought through things soundly and always had good input to help others who were struggling.  Everyone that knew him, looked up to him and respected him.


Oft times it was said of him, “Ya, Spc. Lee, he’s a great guy!”  Others said, “I can trust Spc. Lee.”  For any who have ventured overseas in combat, you know the importance of being able to trust the man to your left and the man to your right.  Soldiers that worked with young Spc. Lee could rest easier, knowing that no one had to question his dependability.  Little did Lee know that there would be others not on the battle field that would be grateful for his sturdy character and responsiveness.  Even to the point that their life depended on him.


It wasn’t long after Josh had returned home from serving his country honorably that he was called on again.  Yet this time it wasn’t a plea from overseas that beckoned him.  It was the smoke rising from a nearby building that caught his attention.


Josh had been out running, sticking to his daily routine to stay in shape.  His heart beating fast, was about to beat even faster.  He ran down to the smoke to survey the scene and see if he could be of assistance.  He noticed that a car had crashed into the building.  The car and the building were both burning.  Lee noticed a strange odor lurking in the air as he got closer.  His adrenaline rushed…he could smell gas.


He peered into the burning wreck and could see a lady beaten and bleeding.  She was slipping in and out of consciousness.  Her car had severed a gas line.  His thoughts raced, “I have to get her out of there!”  He moved into pull her from the wreck, but was promptly thrown back by an explosion.  He crouched down and turned to escape the flames, but they tore into his back burning him.  Something else propelled by the explosion found it’s way to his back and cut him, leaving him bleeding and burnt.


Time slowed down, and his mind became clear.  He turned back to the lady who was trying to no avail to free herself from her burning prison.  Opening the door, he grabbed hold of the lady and dragged her out of harms way.


Soon after, she was flown away to a hospital to undergo medical treatment for her injuries.  Spc. Lee has not spoken to the lady since then and he doesn’t expect any thanks.  Lee just shrugged when questioned about his heroics, “I saw the situation, somebody needed a hand, I stepped in and helped out the best I could.”  He stated simply letting me know that, “…it was nothing special”. 


I begged to differ on the contrary, and let Josh know that if it had not been for his quick thinking and him being there at the right moment, that the outcome could have been tragic. I didn’t believe him when he said that if it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else doing the same thing. He related to me by saying, “You and I dealt with stuff out there all the time and you as well as I know that at the first moment of trouble there is that adrenaline jump.  There’s that moment where everything is exciting.  Yet things calm down, they slow down.  You know your job, you’ve been trained well, and you know what has to be done to take care of it.”


For one individual, I’m sure she is grateful for having a soldier see a need and “take care of it”.


Others saw what a great need had been fulfilled.  Spc. Lee had filled the need of letting someone keep their life.  He received the Utah Medal of Valor for his courage.


All is well when you’ve been through hell and can laugh at your singed hair.

Congratulations Josh, and by the way, your hair has grown back just fine.