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NEWS | Dec. 10, 2014

South Dakota Guard member honored for saving veteran from blazing car crash

By Maj. Anthony Deiss South Dakota National Guard

RAPID CITY, S.D. - A South Dakota National Guard Soldier was awarded the SDNG Medal for Valor on Dec. 6, for heroism displayed while assisting a victim in a fatal car crash.

Sgt. Nathan Darrach, of Sturgis, was presented the award for taking action to ensure the safety of others involved in a three-vehicle accident along Interstate 90, near Summerset, Feb. 8, 2014.

Darrach witnessed the collision and immediately stopped to assist.

"I just reacted. I was raised to help someone when they're in need," said Darrach. "I knew I needed to do whatever I could to help anyone that was injured."

Darrach rushed to check on one of the victims, Darrol Birk, 59, of Rapid City, who suffered a severe injury and whose vehicle caught fire.

"Sgt. Darrach came to my truck, assisted me and checked out my injuries. My right foot was badly injured and I couldn't get out of my truck, which caught fire," said Birk. "An unknown man also came to assist after checking on a woman in another vehicle whom he reported didn't survive the crash."

According to Birk, Darrach and the unidentified person, forced open the badly damaged door on the vehicle and assisted him to safety. Darrach continued to evaluate Birk for injuries until medical professionals arrived, he said.

"I want to thank Sgt. Darrach for being there and for caring for his fellow man enough to risk his own safety to assist me in my time of need," said Birk, a retired U.S. Army first sergeant and 21-year veteran.

"This was a great act of kindness and needed aid on the part of both men at the site of a very violent crash. He is the kind of Soldier I would want with me in combat, knowing he would risk his safety to help his fellow Soldier and man."

"It feels good to help anyone, no matter what the situation is," said Darrach. "All of our training in the National Guard has made it easier to put myself in harm's way to help others."

"It feels great to have had the chance to help Mr. Birk and knowing that his recovery is going well," said Darrach. "I wish there was something that could have been done for the other driver."

Darrach, a member of Joint Force Headquarters in Rapid City, was presented the award in front Birk and his fellow Soldiers during a unit drill assembly. The award was presented by Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, the adjutant general of the SDNG.

The SDNG Medal for Valor is awarded to any individual who, while a member of the SDNG, distinguishes themselves by heroism - not involving actual conflict with an armed enemy - while in the Armed Forces of the United States and performing normal civilian functions and/or duties.

"There is no doubt in my mind that everyone else wearing this uniform would have done the same thing," Darrach said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."