BLUFFDALE, Utah – Seven members of the Utah National Guard were honored for saving the lives of two young girls in a tractor accident in 2012.
Saturday night, the girls were able to meet their heroes face-to-face.
“They jumped in and it meant a lot to me,” said 18-year-old Laura Bishop, who was 12 at the time of the accident.
During the summer of 2012, Laura took her younger sister, Rebeckah, on a tractor ride into Manti. As she tried to park the tractor, something went horribly wrong.
“It jumped the curb and we ended up going up the tree and it flipped over on top of us,” Bishop said.
The tractor caught fire, trapping the girls underneath. Luckily the accident happened across the street from the Manti Armory, where some members of the Utah National Guard were holding a meeting.
“We saw the tractor lurch over the curb and hit the tree and start to flip over, and at that moment we took off running for the door,” Major Shane Day said.
Major Day, along with Sgt. Brice Avery, Sgt. Jason Fowles and Sgt. Maj. Eric Shepherd, were awarded the Utah Cross at Camp Williams Saturday night. The Utah Cross is presented to those who voluntarily subject themselves to danger that goes beyond the call of duty.
“None of the individuals sought this or wanted the recognition for this,” Major Day said. “Sometimes you just have to react to the situation and hope it turns out for the best.”
Master Sgt. Christopher Branch, Staff Sgt. John Christiansen, and Lt. John Hunt were awarded the Utah Commendation Medal for their heroism.
Each of the Guard Members helped pull the girls from the burning tractor and extinguish the fire – saving their lives.
“When it tipped over on top of us, I remember being like, ‘We are in trouble, but there are so many people around us, but we are going to be OK.’ But no one jumped in except some of these guys right here,” Bishop said.
Saturday’s ceremony was the first time Laura and Rebeckah met their heroes since the incident. The Guard Members saved a note the girls wrote the day after the accident.
“We said thank you for saving our lives and signed our names,” Bishop said.
The civilian soldiers say their job requires them to be ready for any situation that presents itself, because there is no predicting the challenges that come their way. They are happy their actions are allowing the girls to lead healthy, full lives.
“It’s great to see them,” Major Day said. “They are beautiful young ladies.”