Life-saving efforts net Nebraska Air Guard sergeant Airman's medal

Story by: Airman 1st Class Jamie Titus
Posted: 12/20/2017
Tech. Sgt. Phillip J. Francis receives the Airman's Medal, Dec 20, 2017, at the State Capitol for his heroic efforts risking his life to save an injured motorist from a burning vehicle on May 1, 2013, following a car accident near Waterloo, Nebraska. (Nebraska National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes)

Tech. Sgt. Philip J. Francis, a power production specialist with the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Civil Engineering Squadron, was awarded the Airman’s Medal for risking his life to rescue an injured motorist from a burning car during an award ceremony conducted Dec. 20 in the Nebraska State Capitol Rotunda. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general, officiated the ceremony which took place as part of the annual National Guard birthday celebration.

The Airman’s Medal of Heroism is granted to service members in the U.S. Air Force who distinguish themselves by heroic actions, mostly at the voluntary risk of live, but not involving actual combat.

Francis’ award goes back to a serious accident that occurred May 1, 2013, outside of Waterloo, Nebraska. Traveling to Omaha with his wife, Anna, Francis said the weather was unseasonably cold when it suddenly began to hail.

After pausing underneath an overpass to allow the storm to pass, Francis said that they were just getting underway again when they came upon a car crash near a curve. He added that he quickly realized the head-on collision was bad and had obviously just occurred.

Quickly pulling over, Francis sprinted to the first victim and, using skills he had learned through numerous training exercises in the Nebraska Air National Guard, began performing self aid buddy care to treat a woman who was ejected from the vehicle. He then helped rescue another woman who was trapped in her vehicle before ultimately saving a man who was trapped inside another vehicle that had caught on fire.

Francis then continued to assist by loading victims onto stretchers and into ambulances, and assisted the medical team in splinting one of the victim’s broken leg.

According to Ricketts and Bohac, Francis exemplifies what it means to be a Nebraska National Guard Airman.

“(Tech. Sgt. Francis’ actions) just shows why Nebraska is the best place in the world to live,” said Ricketts, prior to pinning the new medal on Francis’ uniform while members of his family and friends sat nearby. “When we have people like [Tech.] Sgt. Francis, who are willing to step up and put themselves at risk to save another, and it exemplifies the spirit of the Nebraska National Guard.”

Later, Francis said he felt humbled by the honor.

“I feel like I was in the right place at the right time,” Francis said. “If anyone who’s in my unit or in the Guard here in Nebraska or Active Duty, if they had come upon that situation, I feel like they would have done the same thing, but it means a lot to be honored for something like this.”

“I would hope that if you were put into a situation where you have to do something like that for someone, your life is just as important as theirs, and if you have the will and the means to help them out, you do that,” he added.