By Sgt. Darron Salzer, National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., (Army News Service, Aug. 19, 2010) — “An angel in disguise” is how Army Maj. Nathlon Jackson was described by Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley at a ceremony at the Army National Guard Readiness Center Wednesday.
McKinley, who is the chief of the National Guard Bureau, presented the Soldier’s Medal to Jackson, adding that “Soldiers like Jackson are what the National Guard is all about, people helping those in need.”
The Soldier’s Medal is the highest non-combat medal awarded for heroism.
On Jan. 11, Jackson, who is section chief for the Army Guard’s enlisted policy branch, was walking from the readiness center to her car for lunch, when she saw smoke pouring from a house.
“As I walked over to the house, I could smell that something was burning, rather than it being smoke from a pot burning in the kitchen,” she said. “I opened the mail slot with my hand and started to yell inside ‘hello, hello’ to see if anyone was home.”
A neighbor from across the street came outside during the commotion and told Jackson that someone was inside the burning house. She also provided Jackson with a key to the residence.
Jackson entered the home and proceeded up to the bedroom, where she found Shirley Rollins, who was overcome by smoke.
Rollins, who attended the award ceremony and who has lived in the neighborhood next to the readiness center for 62 years, said that she remembers nothing from that day.
“I remember going to bed the night before, but I don’t remember waking up to smoke,” she said. “Since I live by myself, nobody else was there, and the cat was gone, but neighbors … came to rescue me.”
During the ceremony, Rollins thanked an emotional Jackson for being such a wonderful person and thanked Jackson’s mother for bringing such a wonderful daughter into the world.
Humbled by the experience and all of the attention she has received since January, Jackson said, “You should help who you can.”
“It was a natural instinct for me to help Miss Shirley … you need to help someone in need and not pass them by,” said Jackson. “As Soldiers, that’s what we do and that is why I joined the Army National Guard.”