Army Sgt. 1st Class Jedadia Powell, of the Oregon National Guard, is living proof that acts of heroism are not limited to the battlefield.
Powell, who is assigned to the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, helped a woman escape a burning home and then he braved the flames as he rushed inside to save another woman and her dog.
More than three years later, Powell has finally received the Soldier’s Medal, which is the Army’s highest non-combat award for valor.
On Nov. 28, 2017, Powell’s co-worker told him that a nearby house was on fire and no emergency responders were at the scene, he recalled for a video that was recently released by his unit.
“So, I made a quick decision; got up from the desk; ran out the door; ran down the street about a block-and-a-half,” Powell said.
He arrived as a teenage boy was trying to carry his mother out of the burning house.
“She was extremely, severely burned,” Powell said in the video. “All he could say was: ‘Please help my mom! Please help my mom!’”
Powell helped move the injured woman as far from the home as possible. He asked her son if there was anyone else in the house, but the boy kept asking him to help his mother.
Unable to get more information, Powell ran into the home.
“There’s huge flames coming from the kitchen; a lot of smoke,” he said. “I noticed a woman on my right-hand side that was disoriented down on the floor. She was trying to grab a dog – there was a dog next to her.”
Powell picked up both the woman and the dog and quickly moved them safely outside.
He went back into the home one last time, covering his mouth with his shirt to protect himself from the smoke as he made sure that a bathroom and two bedrooms were empty.
Then he and another soldier went outside the house to make sure no one was trapped in the garage. By that time, the first responders had arrived, so they both decided to get back to work.
On April 10, Powell received the Soldier’s Medal at a ceremony in Oregon. The reason why it took so long for him to get the medal was due to delays stemming from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, said Army Maj. Stephen Bomar, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard.
Since the Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest non-combat award and it includes a 10% increase in retirement pay, all nominations are heavily scrutinized and take at least a year to process, Bomar said. The COVID-19 pandemic added at least seven to eight months on top of that.
It also took his unit some time to prepare the award package, which was submitted in early 2018, partly because Powell did not feel he had done anything exceptional, Bomar said.
“Sgt. Powell is just a very humble individual and when we found out about this, he was just like: ‘Nah, nah, nah; that’s what we do,’” Bomar said. “It took a while to get it going.”
Eventually, Powell’s Soldier’s Medal was awarded in December, but his unit was still operating under COVID-19 restrictions, Bomar said. That’s why Powell received the award at a ceremony this month, when the unit was able to hold one of its first non-virtual drills in a long time.
Powell has credited his military training for allowing him to act without hesitation in crisis situations.
“It really wasn’t no big thing,” he said. “I think anyone wearing this uniform would have done the exact same thing as I did.”
Featured image: Sgt. 1st Class Jedadia Powell receiving the Soldier’s Medal on April 10. (Courtesy Oregon National Guard.)