SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – If you asked most people what they thought it took to be a hero, they would probably tell you a mask, cape and some assortment of superpowers.
In January 2018, on the side of U.S. 287, Maj. Justin Warner showed what it really takes to be a hero by placing his well-being on the line to save two strangers whose vehicle had just flipped and caught on fire.
Warner was heading toward Dallas when he witnessed an SUV go off the road and flip, coming to a stop on its side.
“I was the first one to see it,” Warner said. “I stopped and started running toward their car, calling 911 as I made my way to them, but then the vehicle’s engine bay caught on fire so my mindset shifted.”
Forgetting about the emergency call and his own safety, Warner immediately took action.
“I saw that there were two people in the vehicle that would need some help getting out since the car was on its side,” he said. “I climbed up on top of the vehicle and basically pulled them through the driver’s side window.”
Warner mentioned that he was worried the fire would spread and cause the vehicle to explode.
“I had the same mindset from the second I saw the fire,” he said. “I knew I had to get them away from the fire.”
Warner carried the driver’s daughter, who had sustained an ankle injury during the crash, while the father was able to walk to safety. Soon after, the vehicle exploded in flames.
By this point, other motorists had stopped and called emergency services.
“When the emergency vehicles got there, they pretty much took them away quickly and I didn’t get to talk to them afterward,” Warner said. “All I knew was their first names and I tried looking them up later on to see if they were ok, but I couldn’t find them.”
What Warner didn’t know was that the driver of the vehicle was retired Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe.
Wolfe reached out to Sheppard to let them know of Warner’s heroic actions.
On Nov. 27, 2018, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, in front of his family, friends and coworkers, Warner was awarded the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, the Airman’s Medal.
Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, presented the medal to Warner. He spoke about Warner’s many achievements.
“He is a distinguished graduate from several programs, so it wasn’t really a surprise in my mind when I saw it was him who saved those lives,” La Fave said. “He didn’t see it happen and say, ‘Hey, there is an Airman’s Medal in it for me if I do this.’ He did it because that’s the type of person he is.”
Warner is an introduction to fighter fundamentals instructor with the 97th Flying Training Squadron and has more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-15 Eagle.
Wolfe and his family were also in attendance for the medal presentation.
“God put him in place on that particular day,” Wolfe said. “He saved my life and my daughter’s life.”
The Airman’s Medal was established on July 6, 1960, and is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of their life but not involving combat.