Coast Guardsman Honored for Rescue from Burning Car

Machinery Technician First Class Coast Guard Reservist David Fencer, who rescued two persons from a burning car on Floyd Road in East Derry on Aug. 31, 2007, was honored for his actions in a ceremony at Coast Guard Northeast Base in Boston on May 3.

The U.S. Meritorious Service Medal is not only a significant medal in the military in its own right but is difficult to receive. The award citation includes the phrase “The Operational Distinguishing Device is authorized,” an extra recognition added to the medal by the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant.

At the ceremony it was stated, “particularly for those of you that aren’t in the military or our service, that little phrase at the end is extremely important – the Operational Distinguishing Device. It is almost unheard of to get that unless you’re on an aircraft or a ship or a boat doing something very dangerous in an operational environment, and for the commandant to put that on there is a better testament to how much effort he put into that and to the level they thought he was authorized to receive that award. So that little phrase at the end means a whole lot.”

The device is a silver “o” on his ribbon.

Accomopanying the Meritorious Service Medal is a certificate that states, “this is to certify that the President of the United States of America has awarded the Meritorious Service Medal to David J. Fencer…for exceptionally Meritorious Achievement and Superior Performance of Duties.”

The citation accompanying the award notes that on the morning of Aug. 31, 2007, “a motor vehicle struck a stone wall, overturned, and came to rest on its roof. Awakened by the sound of the crash just outside of his home (at 2 a.m.), he quickly and competently responded as a Good Samaritan. He immediately went outside to discover the vehicle with two passengers trapped inside, gas leaking, and the engine compartment on fire. (He) quickly grabbed two fire extinguishers from his kitchen and directed a friend to contact emergency services. Without hesitation, he expertly triaged the scene and approached the vehicle from the passenger side where flames were beginning to encroach into the broken front window. He beat back the flames, allowing enough time for one occupant to free himself from the burning vehicle. At this point, he observed that the other occupant remained trapped inside and unable to free himself. With the front area of the vehicle still on fire, (he) laid down on the road in a pool of gasoline and broken glass, partially entered the vehicle, reached inside and pulled the occupant free.”

After moving both occupants away from the vehicle, he questioned them to make sure there were no other passengers. The vehicle quickly was engulfed in flames, and emergency vehicles arrived to douse the fire.

The citation states Fencer’s actions “undoubtedly (saved) the lives of both the driver and the passenger. Petty Officer Fencer’s dedication and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

The Award Citation was read by Lieutenant Commander Jennifer S. Haag. Presenting the award and citation was Master Chief Michael A. Bumgardner. The medal was pinned to his dress uniform by Captain Timothy J. Heitsch.

Petty Officer Fencer lives with his wife, Joanna, and son, Brandon D. Fencer, with another baby on the way, on Floyd Road in East Derry.

“We are extremely proud of David!” Joanna Fencer said. “He is our hero, amazing husband and father. He loves to serve his country and takes it very seriously.”