JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Senior Airmen Avery Samuels and Jelisha Newkirk, both from the 439th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, spotted a cloud of smoke on Interstate 64 in Hampton, Virginia, Dec. 8, 2021.
A vehicle was on fire; Samuels immediately pulled over.
“I’m going to go check it out,” he said, and rushed out of the car to the scene.
Bystanders were grabbing fire extinguishers from their cars, trying to put out the flames. The car had crashed into an 18-wheel cement truck.
“Is anybody in there [wrecked car]?” asked Samuels.
“There’s a woman still in there,” said the cement truck driver.
Samuels’ adrenaline was rushing. He swiftly retrieved the woman out of the car. With the assistance of others, they managed to break the window and pry the door open.
When they carefully pulled her out of the car, Samuels noticed she was severely injured. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital. Unfortunately, the woman was declared dead on arrival.
Despite this tragic event, the heroism and compassion Samuels showed in the midst was honorable.
“You need to have a sense of compassion for people to be selfless,” said Capt. Sonny Martinez, 439th SCOS non-airborne flight commander. “Many people would hesitate to be near a vehicle that is up in flames, but Senior Airman Samuels didn’t. How many people want to expose themselves to a possible explosion? That is selfless and it takes a little bit of guts to try to assist a victim that is severely injured.”
The Air Force values many things, but having your wingman’s back is one of the first concepts Airmen are taught upon entering the Air Force. The victim of the car crash was not an Airmen, but in that situation, she became a fellow wingman to Samuels, and he did everything he could to not leave that wingman behind.
“The Air Force prepared me [for the accident] because I value others more now,” said Samuels. “The Air Force has helped me take into account the values of others and what it really means to put service before self.”
It is this kind of leadership the Air Force strives to produce in Airmen.
“When it comes to my Air Force career, I’ve always held myself to a higher standard,” said Samuels. “As an Airman and leader, I want to set an example; I feel like you shouldn’t preach something, unless you set that example.”
“I think Samuels’ story will inspire and remind other people of the good in other human beings,” said Martinez. “Moments like that teach us that life is more than just us, but other people as well.”
According to Martinez, it’s important to recognize these sorts of acts, because it signals that we care. For acts of heroism like this, it signals what the U.S. Air Force values.
“When our commander, Maj. Joseph Mercurio, found out about Samuels’ heroism, he wanted to recognize his courage,” said Martinez. “We are in the process of submitting for an Airman’s Medal to be awarded to Samuels.”
The package to be submitted for the Airman’s Medal is still being reviewed. No medal has been awarded to Samuels as of March 9, 2022.