From Guard to Guardian; Airman saves childrens' lives, earns award
By Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 11, 2016
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- After driving for almost eight hours, a little after 3 a.m., you see the lights to your hotel in the distance. Whoosh! A car passes you going more than 80 mph while blowing through red lights. Suddenly, the vehicle T-boned another one.
Staff Sgt. Clinton Brown, 161st Intelligence Squadron intelligence analyst, was driving outside Marshall, Texas, May 23, 2015, when he jumped into action after seeing this scenario crash before his eyes.
“I pulled in as fast as I could, slammed the car in park and jumped out barking out orders to my wife,” recalled Brown. “I needed to help these people.”
Brown and his wife arrived on scene right after the collision. Assessing the situation, Brown realized the driver in the T-boned car was pinned in and needed the most help.
“I reached in there and tried to feel his pulse,” said the Sedgwick, Kansas native. “We tried to provide aid to the driver, but he was gone. His fiancée was in the car with him.”
Brown’s wife, Stefanie, stayed with the fiancée while Brown moved on to check the other vehicle. He couldn’t see any movement in the second car. Suddenly, it caught fire.
“After the vehicle caught fire, me and another bystander tried to kick the windows in,” Brown said.
The good Samaritans had no luck, but that changed when a passing semi-truck driver approached them with a hammer.
“I ran over, grabbed the hammer and broke the back passenger window out,” he said. “There were two kids in the back seat who were fully awake and conscious. The mom was in the driver seat still. She was going crazy.
She was turned around, holding onto both kids and wasn’t letting go. She was going to let them burn in the car.”
The truck driver returned with a fire extinguisher and attempted to get the flames under control.
Meanwhile, Brown, a father of three, said he remembered thinking to himself that he wasn’t going to let anyone burn to death in a car.
“I reached in and grabbed the mom’s wrist and squeezed as hard as I could and ripped her daughter out of the back seat,” Brown said. “As soon as I did that, she put her head down and started singing gospel music.”
The fire extinguisher didn’t do much to control the fire, soon the front of the car was engulfed in flames.
“Her son was behind the driver seat, so I just grabbed him and pulled him out of the vehicle,” said Brown.
After he pulled the children out, the police arrived and they were able to get the woman out of the burning car.
For his actions, unbeknownst to Brown, his first sergeant, Master Sgt. Jerry Gardiner, 161st IS, nominated him for the United Service Organization National Guardsmen of the Year.
“Clint Brown is the type of person that is very compassionate with a tremendous capacity to do what right for himself, his family, and the community,” said Gardiner. “[He is] a quiet, humble and inspiring individual who puts service to his country and family before himself.”
Ultimately, Brown was selected as the recipient of the award.
“I was shocked,” Brown recalled about the selection. “I am literally the small-town boy who grew up helping people. I’ve always tried to help. It’s who I am; I will sacrifice my life if I need to.”
Brown explained that his family is very proud of him and are excited for his recognition.
Recently, the Brown family learned what happened to individuals involved in the accident.
“The guy that was killed was 19-years-old,” Brown said. “The other driver was charged with first-degree murder and a couple counts of child endangerment. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.”
Brown doesn’t know what happened to the two children he rescued, but to his children, he will always be their hero.
“My youngest daughter will tell you I’m her hero,” he smiled. “It makes me unbelievably proud and brings tears to my eyes to hear it.”
The humble sergeant will be honored during the 2016 USO Gala in Washington, D.C., Oct. 20.