Airman presented Indiana Distinguished Service Cross for her heroic efforts

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lonnie C. Wiram
  • 181st Intelligence Wing/Public Affairs
"I was driving to drill and I hardly ever stop in the morning, but this morning I pulled into a gas station at exit 23 to get a bottle of water," said Senior Airman Leah M. Puckett, 181st Intelligence Wing, as she reflected on the day of the accident.

There was an Airman at the gas station getting some things, as well. We did not exchange words, just a head nod.  She got in her vehicle and headed towards base as I paid for my water, said Puckett.

"I got in my car and headed to drill like a normal drill morning," said Puckett.

As Puckett drove closer to base, tragedy struck.

"I'm traveling behind a van and all of a sudden I see a white flash through the air and realize it's headlights through the air," said Puckett. "I look up in my rear view mirror to make sure no one was behind me so I could stop."

Senior Airman Puckett did not hesitate. She stopped her vehicle, put it in park, turned her caution lights on, and ran up to the van to check on the driver.

"I got up to the van and there was a military member standing outside his van with blood on his face and he said, "I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay," as Puckett described it.
Puckett stood there for a minute, looking around and then she saw smoke out in a field.

That is when Puckett's morning changed drastically.

"It's a car," Puckett said. "I didn't see the car a first because the car was black, it is early morning in November, and it was dark."

"My first assumption was that the car was going to blow so to give that person a chance I need to get to the car now and shut the engine off and get them out," Puckett expressed. "I took off running towards the car."

The car was the woman's from the gas station that morning.

She gets to the vehicle, turns off the engine and starts assessing the damage.

"I tried to get the driver's side door open but the door was smashed in and glass everywhere," said Puckett. "I went over to the passenger side and got that door open."

Puckett then gets in the vehicle checks over the woman, and calls 911.

Due to the conditions of the woman Puckett did not move her but administered first aid.

"I made a tourniquet, the best I could, to apply self-aid buddy care, by tightening her cuff on her blouse," said Puckett.

While sitting in the vehicle, keeping the driver stable, Puckett hears the woman's phone ring, and it keeps ringing.

"Her phone had a protective case, but the collision was so hard that the phone case came off the phone and the phone was cracked," explained Puckett.

Puckett then answers the phone and it is a family member of the woman. She explains to the family member what happened and calms them down. While this is taking place the authorities and fellow guardsmen take care of the driver.

Puckett then learns that the woman's leg is severely broken, so severe that the blood stopped going to the leg, so the authorities have to airlift her to the hospital.

While the authorities moved the woman to a stretcher, Puckett held the woman's hand and went to the hospital with her. Puckett did not leave her side.

That day Puckett became an example of the sixteenth line of the Airman's Creed, "I will never leave an Airman behind."

She took her training and used the knowledge that she has to save that woman's life that day.

"I don't feel like a hero, I don't feel like that," expressed Puckett. "I feel like this is what I was trained to do. It's what the United States Air Force trained me to do."

"Being a Racer has given me the opportunity to be more confident, more self-assured, and more knowledgeable in things like self-aid buddy care, leadership, and performing under pressure." 

181st Intelligence Wing Commander Kip Clark presented Puckett with the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross for her heroic efforts.

I am Racer, and any Racer would do the same; it is who we are, said Puckett.