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Navy Honors Sailor for Heroic Actions

05 October 2023

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. – Information Technician 2nd Class Thomas James simply wanted to save lives on Nov. 19, 2022, when a gunman opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing five and injuring 18.

No agenda. No attention. Just an extraordinary reaction to a deplorable and devastating event.

For his actions, James was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration the Navy can award for heroism, during a ceremony, Oct. 5, 2023. Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, director of Plans, Policy and Strategy for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, presented the medal on behalf of the Navy.

James, a native of West Virginia and fourth-generation veteran, was described by Robertson as kind, professional, and humble – sentiments concurred by nodding heads from those in the audience. James’ comments following the presentation of the medal mirrored the admiral’s description.

“Thank you. I am humbled,” James said, the only words uttered by the unassuming hero.

Robertson said he spent time with James leading up to the ceremony, and asked one simple question – why?

“He said, ‘I wanted to buy time for my friends. I wanted to protect my community,’” Robertson recalled.

The events of Nov. 19, 2022, gained national attention when a gunman entered the local nightspot in Colorado Springs and began indiscriminately firing a high-powered rifle at people in the establishment. Without consideration of personal harm and safety, James jumped into action and confronted the assailant, grabbing the barrel of the weapon and sustaining a gunshot wound to his abdomen and burns to his hands.

James and another patron subdued the gunman until police arrived and took the assailant into custody.

According to a police detective’s testimony, James’ selfless actions continued outside the nightclub when he gave up his seat in an ambulance so another injured person could be cared for and transported to a local hospital.

“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” James wrote in a statement released in November while he recovered in the hospital. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

Robertson said he asked himself the question, “How would I have reacted?” He said that in reality, no one in the room really knows – except for James.

“I myself can only hope that I would channel the courage in our Navy core values like he did,” Robertson said. “But, we don’t have to wait for crisis to apply core values. We can and should apply them every day. That’s what I am taking away from the lessons you taught us all.”


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