Army Alaska soldier receives rare award for heroic car crash rescue

Inside the Gates
An Army Alaska soldier was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his heroic actions in a terrible car crash last May.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 4:46 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Last May, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Chapoton was returning home with his family after spending the day whale watching near Seward, when the group witnessed a horrific scene.

“We were traveling northbound on the highway when two cars collided,” Chapoton recounted.

Without a second thought, Chapoton got out of the car and leapt into action to help save the passengers who were inside the burning vehicles.

“I immediately got out, opened up the vehicle doors to try to assess how many people were in the accident,” Chapoton said.

Alongside civilians and first responders who were at the scene just seven miles out of Seward, Chapoton was able to help extract three of the passengers who we trapped inside one of the burning vehicles. One woman did die in the crash.

Six months later, on Jan. 12, 2023, Chapoton was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his heroic actions.

“You don’t see a whole lot of these,” Major General Brian Eifler, with the U.S. Army, said. “In my career, this is the second time I’ve seen it in the unit that I’ve been in and I have been in for 31 years.”

The rare award is the highest honor a soldier can receive outside of combat.

Chapoton said being honored with the award came as a surprise.

“I don’t think it defines me at all, I really don’t, because I think that any other soldier would have done the exact same thing,” Chapoton said. “It’s just what we do. We help.”

During Thursday’s ceremony, Chapoton praised everyone who was on the scene, thanking everyone from his family, civilians on the scene and law enforcement who assisted.

“I am very humbled, I am very appreciative but there was a lot of people in that effort. It wasn’t just me,” Chapoton said.

Eifler said Chapoton’s actions show how being a soldier is more than just the time that they spend in uniform; it’s a lifestyle and a personal mission that they must always take on.

“That’s a special type of breed of a person that does that (and) that’s in our military,” Eifler said. “And that’s what we are looking for and we need people of character like that that will put everything to the side, including their self — and their family in this case — and go out there into a burning car to rescue strangers at the risk of his own life.”