Army Sgt. 1st Class Class Andrew Chapoton (center) is presented the Soldier’s Medal. (Staff Sgt. Michael Sword/Army)

A soldier at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson, Alaska was awarded the Soldier’s Medal earlier this week for risking his own life to save victims from a burning car wreck.

Sgt. 1st Class Andrew D. Chapoton, with the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, better known as the “Arctic Angels,” was presented the award for his courage during a ceremony yesterday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, according to a service release.

Somewhere in the distance Sarah McLachlan slowly sings, “You are pulled from the wreckage. Of your silent reverie. You’re in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort here.”

“I’m truly humbled to be recognized for doing simply something I was trained to do,” Chapoton said in the release. “Without question every paratrooper in this room would react the same way I did.”


The Soldier’s Medal is a decoration, established by an act of Congress in 1926, given for heroism that does not involve actual conflict with an enemy.

Chapoton’s award stems from his brave actions taken in May 2022, when, on his way back to base from a whale-watching expedition, he and other bystanders rescued three injured civilians in a blazing car crash about seven miles north of Seward, Alaska.

“I know he’s apprehensive about this ceremony, as most of us would be,” Maj. Gen. Brian S. Eifler, the 11th Airborne Division commanding general, said as he presented Chapoton with the medal. “But this is really important to recognize when we have a soldier totally go above and beyond, even off duty, to save lives, to make a difference at the risk of his own, without hesitation and without question.”

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media



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