University of North Texas rugby player Steven Davidson, also a sergeant in the US Army, was recently named the Military Times Soldier of the Year.
Each year the Military Times honors five Everyday Heroes, service members who demonstrate pride, dedication and courage beyond what is expected.
Here is an edited reprinting of the citation for Sgt. Davidson:
Sgt. Davidson helped save a fellow soldier's life while they were attending the French Desert Warfare Course in Djibouti, Africa.
Three months into his tour, Sgt. Davidson and several soldiers from his unit were given the chance to participate in the French-run desert warfare course. In 120 degree temperatures, the soldiers were on the final march at the end of the intense 10-day course. The soldiers had already marched "close to 100 miles by that point in the course," said Maj. Edward Palacios, the battalion executive officer, adding, "the heat was unbearable." About nine hours into the march, the instructors kept saying, 'One more mile, one more mile,' as the soldiers tried to conserve what little water they had left.
Suddenly, a solider began seizing due to heat stroke. Sgt. Davidson quickly took charge of helping his fellow soldier. He grabbed his scissors and starting cutting off the master sergeant's boots, and quickly ordered others to do the same to the soldier's uniform. Sgt. Davidson poured the last of his water on the seizing soldier. Many nearby were convinced it was too late, but the soldier pulled through.
"I was just doing what anyone else would have done," said Sgt. Davidson. "I didn't think anything of it because it was muscle memory."
Sgt. Davidson was awarded an Army Achievement Medal for his lifesaving actions and the Military Volunteer Medal for his activities during deployment. Best of all, Sgt. Davidson completed the French Desert Warfare Course as an honor graduate. During his time in Djibouti, Sgt. Davidson was adopted by a Djiboutian family, and volunteered to teach them English as well as learn their local language of Somali.
Sgt. Davidson volunteers much of his time as a mentor to students of O.A. Peterson Elementary School, Tidwell Middle School and Northwest High School in Justin, Texas. After a visit to the high school, the students invited him back to speak to the faculty and staff about the impact teachers can have on students. His speeches are routinely met by a standing applause.
Sgt. Davidson's current duties include Admin NCO, Mail Clerk and Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve, as well as serving as a Combined Federal Campaign representative. He attends the University of North Texas, where he plays for the rugby club, however his unit has recommended him for appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Making honorable mention for this award is another rugby player. Sgt. Matthew Rutkowski was on the All-Army rugby team in 2011. He was nominated when he rescued a soldier’s spouse from possible drowning, as well as his various other good works, including organizing a Thanksgiving Dinner for the Boys & Girls Club.