A chief warrant officer received the Soldier's Medal on Thursday for saving the life of a man in a traffic accident last year.

Then-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jesse Rhymes was driving near Tacoma, Washington, in January 2016 when the driver in front of him lost control of his Jeep Cherokee and the vehicle flipped several times, landing upside down in a ditch.

"Obviously, I stopped my car and called 911," Rhymes, now a chief warrant officer 3, told Army Times on Thursday. "As soon as the car came to a rest upside down, the engine block was engulfed in flames."

Rhymes said he looked inside and saw there were no passengers. The driver was upside down still in his seatbelt. The chief warrant officer started talking to the driver, who was slightly responsive. Another driver pulled up to help as the fire started to grow.

Rhymes climbed into the smoke-filled vehicle and reached the driver, who had unhooked his seatbelt. When Rhymes tried to pull him out, he realized the driver's legs were trapped under the steering wheel.

After he inspected the driver as best as he could for injuries, flames started to come through the dashboard.

Rhymes knew the driver needed to be removed from the vehicle immediately, so he pulled the man halfway out until the other person who stopped to help was able to assist.

Rhymes and the other person got the driver away from the Jeep, with Rhymes performing first aid until the fire department arrived. He was told that the driver most likely went into diabetic shock, causing the crash.

Rhymes "acted with the utmost professionalism, even at great personal peril, and was vital to rescuing a fellow American," according to his Soldier's Medal narrative.


He was awarded the medal at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, where he was stationed at the time of the incident. Rhymes, a special agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command, is now assigned to the CID office in Monterey, California. 

The mentality of taking care of people is what it boils down to, he said.

As a CID agent, Rhymes said he's exposed to the bad things that happen in the Army.

"I'm used to being around the effects of seeing impacts on families," Rhymes said. "The guy in that truck wasn't going to make it if I didn't go in there. That's somebody's father, son, brother."

Rhymes said a fellow CID special agent at Joint Base Lewis-McChord submitted the Soldier's Medal nomination after hearing about the story in the office.

"I had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation [after the incident], and I was coughing really bad at the office," Rhymes said. "She asked, 'What's wrong with you?' I explained to her what had happened, and she said, 'I'm putting you in for an award for that.' "

Maj. Gen. Thomas James, commander of the 7th Infantry Division, presented the award to Rhymes at a ceremony that included Rhymes' wife, two children, parents, sister and several close friends.

"As soon as I found out it was approved, I was very honored," he said. "Not only just to receive it, but the fact that I was recognized for it."


Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.