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Jim Henry receives Unsung Hero Award

Jim Henry receiving the Unsung Hero AwardJim Henry, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Civil Engineering Technician, Manhattan, Kansas, was recently recognized at the Organization of Professional Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (OPEDA) 2013 Unsung Hero Award Program, Washington, D.C. Henry received the award as one of the nation’s Unsung Heroes for his actions of going “above and beyond” the call of duty.

Established in 1929, OPEDA is an association of professional employees with the mission to enhance the effectiveness of members in the performance of their duties. It seeks to provide enlightened guidance and representation before Congress, the Administration, and other employee groups and organizations and the public on matters that promote the efficient and effective operation of agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On February 6, 2013, Henry spent the morning surveying a streambank stabilization project near Holton, Kansas. He finished his work and was driving back to the office when he noticed smoke down the road. As he got closer to the intersection, he saw a fire burning all around a car in the ditch.

Henry grabbed the fire extinguisher located in his truck and ran to help another person who was trying to put out the fire. At this point, Henry realized someone was pinned in the car. He dropped his extinguisher and tried to open the door. All the doors were jammed except the passenger side rear door. When he opened the door, the car was filled with smoke. Unselfishly, Henry crawled in the backseat to keep the woman trapped in the car calm and make sure she didn’t move her head around. Henry remained in the car until the fire department arrived on the scene. He helped emergency personnel place the cervical collar on her neck. Henry then stayed with the injured woman as emergency personnel were forced to use the “jaws of life” equipment to free her from the burning vehicle—not once considering his own safety.

While Henry credits the 15 years he spent on the local fire department for providing the knowledge on how to handle the situation, he has humbly accepted any acknowledgement of the act. Though several vehicles continued driving by the scene of the accident, Henry still believes he was doing “. . . what anyone else would have done. . .”

“I’m glad I stopped, I just did what I was trained to do as a first responder,” he said.

“I think Jim is being modest in the actions of his bravery,” said Troy Munsch, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations, Manhattan, Kansas. “There are a lot of people who wouldn’t put themselves in the same situation he did.”