Soldier’s Medal recipient not a ‘Hero’

12/05/2011  |  By Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield 104th Training Division (LT), Public Affairs
The Griffon

Former Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Julian With poses with his stepdaughter Taylor, wife Nicole, and stepson Dalton as U.S. Rep Paul Tonko presents With the Soldier’s Medal on Sept. 6. Sgt. With voluntarily risked his life to save the lives of several Iraqi Soldiers who had been injured in a roll-over accident where the vehicle burst into flames. The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves by non-combat heroism and risking their life to save another. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield, 104th Training Division (LT) Public Affairs.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Sometimes, the answer to a question will depend on who you ask the question of. In this case, the question is, “do you consider Julian With a hero?”

If you ask Julian With, the answer is no. In fact, Julian will tell you that he was “simply doing his job, not looking for a medal,” on the day that he pulled an Iraqi Sgt. Maj. and several Soldiers from their ammunition loaded, overturned, burning vehicle and performing immediate first aid with no regard to his personal safety.

If you ask nine-year old Dalton Augar, With’s stepson, he will look at you with bright shining eyes and tell you that he has always known his dad was a hero, even when they were “just pen-pals” during the war.

On Sept. 6, the Army sided with Dalton and awarded former Army Reserve Sgt. Julian With the Soldier’s Medal, the highest award the Army has for noncombat heroism.

With, a Sgt. in the 98th Training Division (IET) was serving in Iraq on April 7, 2005 when he observed a truck carrying ammunition and Soldiers slide into a ditch, overturn and catch fire.

With claims he did “what anyone else would do,” as he ran to assist the Soldiers in the truck. Disregarding the threat to his own safety posed by the smoke, flames, fumes and risks from possible ammunition cook-off or fuel tank explosion, With immediately set about doing what he was trained to do.

Pulling Soldiers out of the overturned truck, With directed the less injured Soldiers to care for their peers as he assessed the other casualties. It was then that With realized the driver, an Iraqi Sgt. Maj. had an open fracture of the arm with arterial bleeding.

Recognizing the threat to life and limb, With fashioned a tourniquet from the injured Soldier’s shirt and was able to stop the bleeding. According to the medical personnel who treated the Sgt. Maj., With’s actions saved not only the Soldier’s life, but his arm as well.

Former Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Julian shares a hug with his stepson, Dalton, after receiving the Soldier’s Medal on Sept. 6. Dalton and With were pen-pals during the Iraq war, prior to With meeting and subsequently marrying his wife Nicole, Dalton’s mom.

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield, 104th Training Division (LT) Public Affairs.

It could have ended there. With’s chain of command put him in for an award, but nothing came of it. With continued to go about his work in Iraq, serving others with a positive attitude, endearing peers with his “can-do” attitude and corresponding with his pen-pals Dalton and Taylor.

With returned from Iraq and put the incident behind him. After his return, With began dating a woman named Nicole who had two children.

“I was looking at a photo one day,” With explained, “and I had a sense of déjà vu.” With went home and looked in his own keepsakes and realized that Nicole’s two children were his pen-pals from the war.

Dalton has the simple version. “First he was my pen-pal and now he’s my dad.”

With separated from the service in 2007 and currently works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Albany. A disabled vet himself, With agrees that he has a unique position in that he truly understands what Soldiers on the other end of the phone are going through.

Although several years had passed since the incident, there was one man who refused to let the heroism he recognized in Julian With go unnoticed by the rest of the Army.

Maj. William McKern worked tirelessly to ensure that With’s sacrifice did not go unnoticed. Although With would say “anybody would have done this,” McKern disagreed. He felt With had gone above and beyond and risked his own life with absolutely no regard for his personal safety, the definition of qualification for the Soldier’s Medal.

It took six long years, countless submissions of paperwork, tracking down commanders and former commanders, chasing witness statements and submitting paperwork again before his hard work finally paid off and With was approved for the medal.

When asked why he kept working so hard when others would possibly have given up or accepted the “no” answer McKern simply said, “it was the right thing to do.”

With’s wife Nicole, his mother Josie, and his pen-pals turned children Taylor and Nicole were on hand Tuesday as U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.)  presented the long-awaited Soldier’s Medal to the man they all knew was a hero, even if he refused to acknowledge it himself.

“I always knew he was a hero,” Dalton said. “Now everyone else can know too.”

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