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NEWS | Aug. 18, 2016

Heroism Forged by Fire

By Staff Sgt. Jason Proseus 416th Theater Engineer Command

VALLEJO, Calif. – Sgt. Logan Sutherland, a horizontal construction engineer with the 801st Engineer Company (Horizontal), received the highest award for valor while not engaged with an enemy, Aug. 7, 2016.

Sutherland is a modest Soldier with a big heart, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, and according to a quote from California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Sloat, given to KRON4, San Francisco, “just a citizen that happened to be driving by.”

Sutherland received the Soldier’s Medal for his heroism after risking his life, Jan. 1, 2015, by pulling a man from his burning car, and just narrowly escaping the impending conflagration which happened moments later.

It all started with Sutherland, his sister, and his girlfriend at the time, returning from a family get-together at his brother’s house.

“We came up to a stop sign, and there was this kid, with a skateboard, flagging down drivers.” Explains Sutherland, “Then I saw the SUV with the engine compartment on fire.”

Sutherland and the skateboarding kid went to the driver’s door, and saw the driver, unconscious, had no way to get the door open. Thinking fast, Sutherland had the kid bash the back window of the SUV. They broke the back window so that the falling glass wouldn’t injure the driver.

He then climbed through the still burning SUV to get to the unlock button on the door. He got the door open, and wrestled to get the seat belt off the driver. He and his fellow rescuer pulled the driver from the car and dragged him to the opposite side of the road.

“Once we got him down to the ditch, across the street, and away from the SUV, I looked up and the whole passenger area was completely on fire.” said Sutherland.

“From the moment we got there, to the time the police or the emergency vehicles got there, it was no longer than five minutes,” said Molly Sutherland, Logan’s sister, “and the entire vehicle was in flames.”

Sutherland served on active duty from 2010 before transitioning to the Reserve to pursue a full time education. He feels the training he got from being in the Army helped a great deal with saving the driver of the SUV. 

“I didn’t hesitate. My training helped with that.” Sutherland said. “I am definitely more confident in my abilities, because they’ve been tested and proven.”

Despite how close he came to injury or death in the rescue, Sutherland said he’d do it all again rather than standing by helplessly on the side of the road. “I don’t want to be that guy. You know. The guy who pulls out his cell phone to record. I want to help.”

“Logan has always been such a great kid.” said Molly, “I just watched him grow up to become this great guy, you know. I always know he’s there to help.” Molly, Sutherlands older sister by six years, recalls his metamorphosis from, that “annoying two year old,” to “goofy teenager,” to the “awesome kid he grew up to be today.”

Sutherland’s desire to help people is increasingly evident in his actions and aspirations. Sutherland researched the ongoing suicide dilemma facing Veterans and Soldiers. He saw the need to help.

“I heard the stories about people calling the suicide helplines for Soldiers and Veterans, and they would get an answering machine.” Sutherland said, “I want to be there on the other line, giving them the help they need.”

Sutherland is studying psychology and is directing his studies to get the education needed to help veterans cope with PTSD, help with their transition into civilian life, and become a suicide counselor.

“That’s the very Logan thing to do.” His sister proclaimed. “He joined the Army because he wanted to help people, and Logan studying psychology is right up there in the realm of Logan things.” 

The award ceremony was held on Mare Island, an old Navy base located in Vallejo. Col. William Morgan Jr., the commander of the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the 801st EN CO’s higher headquarters, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Perry, were on hand to present Sutherland with the award.

“It was probably the best ceremony I’ve ever been to.” Said Sutherland. “All of what the speakers said was important, but short, and the actual ceremony was grand.” 

The event featured a ceremonial cake that was cut by the youngest and oldest Soldier, along with the 301st MEB command team. “That was pretty cool to watch.”

Sutherland is a modest guy that really didn’t want anyone to make a big deal out of his actions, and didn’t even want anybody to know he was involved. But, the news is out, and a hero has been recognized.

Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Proseus, reported from Darien, Ill.
416th Theater Engineer Command Public Affairs