***image1***Senior Airman Nicholas Semonelle, 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron traffic management journeyman, received the highest non-combat medal in the Air Force from Brig. Gen. Rosanne Bailey, 435th Air Base Wing and KMC commander, at a commander’s call at the Ramstein Hercules Theater Dec. 17.
“It’s a huge achievement. I have been in 12 years and never heard of anyone winning it,” said 1st Lt. Hope Norton, 435th LRS cargo OIC.
Airman Semonelle received the Airman’s Medal for a courageous act while he was in Kinston, Ala., on leave January 2003.
He was at his sister’s house for a barbeque when he and his brother-in-law saw smoke coming from a house only 100 yards away, said Airman Semonelle.
Airman Semonelle and his brother-in-law quickly ran over to the house and assessed the situation. A 14-year-old babysitter told them that there were three children still trapped inside. With wet shirts over their faces, they entered the burning house through a back window.
“I didn’t even think about it, it was just a reaction,” said Airman Semonelle. “I have a daughter myself, and I would want someone to do it for my child.”
Their first trip into the house paid off as they recovered a 3-year-old girl and got her out safely. As soon as they could, the two went back into the flaming house and recovered the 7-year-old boy trapped inside. Their third and fourth efforts weren’t as successful.
An 18-month-old girl was still inside and nowhere to be found. The girl wasn’t found until the fire was extinguished about an hour later.
Airman Semonelle claims the crib holding the baby was only about five feet from where he was looking in the house, but he couldn’t see it because of smoke and flames.
“It’s disappointing, I still think about it to this day,” he said.
Airman Semonelle and his brother-in-law received commending thank-you letters from the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department for their actions.
Since the incident, awards have been coming right and left for him.
He has been awarded with the Vanguard Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal for ammunition movement, and he went to Washington, D.C., to be honored as the United Service Organizations Airman of the Year award.
While in Washington, Airman Semonelle received more than 13 coins and a tour of the Pentagon.
Airman Semonelle showed great courage with his actions and people from his work were not surprised by it.
“He is awesome; he brings a new light to our section,” said Lieutenant Norton. “He’s upbeat and caring, and can always put a smile on your face. On top of that he’s a hard worker and is extremely pro-active.”
The Airman’s Medal for Heroism is the ninth highest achievement medal in the Air Force; rising above medals such as the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
It is awarded to any member in the U.S. Armed Forces serving in any capacity with the Air Force who distinguishes themselves by a heroic act at the voluntary risk of their own life.