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Area soldier earns award for saving neighbor's life during June flood

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Selfless service is a value Army leaders try to instill in all of their soldiers.

The leaders succeeded with Spc. Brian Schafer.

Driving to his first drill weekend on Saturday morning, July 12, of this year, Schafer heard his wife Sonna calling for help.

She was yelling for him because their neighbor, Jamie Broce, was trapped in a culvert and surrounded by a watery vortex.

"I truly believe I wasn't going to get out," Broce said.

He went into the peaceful-looking waters to hopefully clear what he thought was a drainage grill.

It wasn't a drainage grill, but a four-foot concrete tube.

And while the water was calm on top, it was swirling and raging underneath.

"I got spun around and sucked in," said Broce, a Hendricks County resident who lives in Clayton. "I saw Brian's wife and yelled for help."

Arriving on the scene, Schafer saw that Broce was barely keeping his head above water.

"I jumped in without thinking," Schafer said. "It was an automatic response. I knew I had to try to get him above the water."

Schafer, 36, an artilleryman with the Indiana National Guard's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery, had recently returned from basic and advanced training.

"I was probably in the best shape of my life," Schafer said.

Despite being in such good shape, Schafer was nearly sucked in also, but leveraged on top of the pipe and held onto Broce for about 40 minutes until first responders arrived.

"It was a long time for that kind of thing," Sonna said.

"You could almost feel the seconds."

According to Broce's wife, Darci, it took Schafer, Sonna and four firefighters to finally pull Broce from the water.

Darci also said Schafer was instrumental in coordinating the firefighters' help to free himself and his neighbor.

In a ceremony at the unit's family day Sunday, Schafer received Indiana National Guard's second highest medal for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his actions on that wet, summer day.

"Brian, you set an example for all of us to emulate," Maj. Gen. Tod Carmony, 38th Infantry Division commander said. "This incident has a good outcome, but it could've been very tragic. It's a cautionary tale of flooding water."

Broce realized the tragedy that could've been.

"If I don't have a 6-foot-5, 240-pound strong man as a neighbor, I don't make it out of there," Broce said. "He (Schafer) deserves whatever honor he got and I'm just so glad I could be here and be a part of it. I'll forever be grateful."

During the ceremony, Broce thanked Schafer for his efforts.

"It was only 40 minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime," Broce said.

"Thank you not only for serving your country, but also serving your fellow man."

Schafer was humble about receiving the medal and helping his former neighbor.

"It's overwhelming and unexpected. I was just doing my job," Schafer said, now of Coatesville, Ind.

"I was just trying to help a person who needed help."

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