MARANA AIR PARK, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - They knew a man would die if they didn't act fast. Monday, two rescuers met the man they saved. The heroes are soldiers from the Nevada National Guard. The soldiers were on their free time, when an accident happened, and duty called.
For months Ronaldo De la Ree did not know who had saved his life. Now he knows they are Nevada National Guard Sergeant Kyle Stephens and Specialist Michael Knight. The Guardsmen have been based at Silverbell Field in Marana, servicing helicopters for missions on the Southwest border.
The National Guard often works civilian emergencies but the soldiers were off duty the night they saved Ronaldo De la Ree.
They were fishing at the Sweetwater wetlands. It was dark---about two AM last June First, when they heard De la Ree's car hit a power pole.
The flash from the broken power line attracted the men to the scene. When they got there they found the driver was trapped in the car and the car was starting to burn.
Sergeant Kyle Stephens says, "Initially we tried to get him out on the driver’s side except, he (Specialist Michael Knight) pulled the door handle off.”
Specialist Knight says, “I was a bit too excited but we pulled him out of the vehicle and got him away from the car and called the emergency services."
Meeting his rescuers, with his family by his side, Ronaldo De la Ree says, "It's a beautiful experience to still be alive cause God knows what would have happened if they would have not been there that night."
Ronaldo De la Ree did not know who saved him until he heard from a military journalist writing a story about the rescue.
Now he says his second chance, and the heroism that allowed it have changed his life.
"Well, the whole thing was I was drinking and driving at the accident. I was under the influence and now I'm sober. I've been sober for ten months, ever since the accident and trying to better myself every day."
The military honors a special thank you with a coin, a medallion delivered with a handshake.
The soldiers’ commander gave Sergeant Stephens and Specialist Knight the special medallions and they shared one with the man they saved that night.
Both soldiers have been nominated for the Soldier’s Medal---the Army’s medal for heroism that does not involve enemy combat. It will be up to the Department of the Army to decide if they get it.