In 2017, during the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jordan Benson helped save more than 30 people when a gunman opened fire. The attack left 61 dead, and a further 867, with 411 hit directly by gunfire.
In the ensuing chaos, Benson rendered aid to a wounded concert-goer, and helped direct others to safety. On Oct. 2, he was formally recognized for his heroism when he was presented the Airman’s Medal, an honor that caught him off guard, partly because he didn’t know what the medal was.
“I asked him what that medal was,” the 31-year-old airman recalled telling his supervisor in a press release. “As I researched the medal, I thought that would be an awesome award to receive.”
On any other weekend, the three-day music festival would have been a relaxing getaway. Benson went there with his wife, Magali, and 17 other family members. On the last night of the concert, they were scattered among the crowd, with Benson and Magali standing just 20 to 30 feet away from the stage where artist Jason Aldean performed a set. Then Benson heard a loud sound.
“My initial thoughts were that someone on the Las Vegas Strip had shot off some sort of fireworks,” he said. “When the second round of shots were fired, I immediately realized that someone was shooting.”
The airman recalled feeling anxious, nervous, and scared as one of the nation’s deadliest shootings erupted around him, but soon his military training kicked in, and he got to work helping others.
On Friday, exactly three years and one day after the fatal shooting, Benson was finally recognized for his efforts with the Airman’s Medal, which honors those who perform a heroic act outside of combat, usually at the risk of one’s life.
“After realizing it was an active shooter, I immediately shoved my wife and friends to the ground and tried to find the best place to take cover,” Benson said. “After the first long burst of shots stopped, I got my wife and friends to take cover under a set of bleachers that were behind us.”
Benson then set out to help other concertgoers, though his wife begged him not to go.
“It’s my duty to help others,” he recalled telling her.
Leaving the bleachers, Benson applied direct pressure to a woman’s gunshot wound and helped her husband get her to a medical tent. He then helped direct 30 more people, several of whom were lost and confused, to the nearest exit away from the danger.
As dramatic as it was, that night was only one moment in Benson’s long career of service to his country. The San Bernardino, California native has been in the Air Force for nearly 12 years, where he works as an aircraft battle damage repair technician.
As such, he repairs a wide range of aircraft including the C-130, F-15, C-5, C-17 and HH-60G. Benson is currently assigned to the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
“All my years of being in the Air Force and having to take [self aid buddy care training] classes, I used to think I will probably never have to use any of this training on an actual victim,” he said. “I am grateful that I received this training and was able to help as many people as I could.”
Military training wasn’t the only thing Benson felt grateful for after the shooting.
“I want to better enjoy life with my wife and kids, knowing that something like this can happen at any time,” he said.