North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

October 16, 2013

Former Corner resident to receive "Angels of the Battlefield" award

PFC Spencer Burton tended to wounds of two others while under enemy fire

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

— A former Corner resident is being honored next month for putting his life in danger to save others on a far-away battlefield.

U.S. Army Pfc. Spencer Burton, 22, who graduated from Corner High School in 2009, is receiving an Angels of the Battlefield award, sponsored by the Armed Services YMCA. The award recognizes combat medics who show outstanding bravery.

“He, without thinking of his own safety, attended to the needs of two soldiers while firing back at the enemy and was able to treat their wounds,” said Kelli Pendleton, who is on the Armed Services YMCA board and was part of the selection process.

The incident for which Burton is being awarded happened on April 23. Burton, the platoon medic for 3/B/1-87IN, and his platoon were under heavy fire in Paktya Province, Afghanistan.

The platoon was separated into three positions of six soldiers each, spread across 700 meters. All three positions were receiving direct and indirect fire from multiple directions, according to the nomination application.

During the firefight, the company commander received a gunshot wound to the upper left chest. A few moments later, a rifleman who was 500 meters from Burton received a gunshot wound to the right thigh.

While returning fire to the enemy, Burton dressed the commander’s sucking chest wound within three minutes while under heavy enemy fire.

When the 3/B/1-87IN found a secure location and reorganized, Burton treated the rifleman. He then prepared both soldiers for medical evacuation.

Then, while still under direct fire, Burton moved into the open to conduct a handover of the casualties to a helicopter crew.

“We were looking for someone who showed courage and bravery on the combat field in an effort to save someone else’s life,” said Pendleton. “Spencer Burton definitely did that, in a situation where his unit was under attack.”

Reading the description of Burton’s actions was an alarming and moving experience for his parents, Tim and Renae Burton.

“It was hard to read as a dad that someone was looking down a gun barrel at your son,” said Tim Burton.

Burton describes his son as very humble and modest. He did not know about his son’s heroic actions until Pendleton contacted him in need of pictures of the soldier.

“What did he do?” Burton asked Pendleton. He said his son would have never told him the full story.

“There is no flamboyant side to Spencer Burton,” Tim Burton said. “To him, he was just doing his job. He sees no more gallantry in what he did than the guy at the shop mounting four tires,” Tim Burton said.

He also said his son is a country boy.

“He grew up on beans and greens and cornbread. Not because that’s all he had, but that’s what he liked,” Burton said. “When he’s off duty, he has his overalls on.”

Burton said he was surprised when his son announced he was going to be a combat medic, because he said Spencer is mechanically inclined.

“When he was 17, he could change the engine in a car, with nobody teaching him,” Burton said.

However, he was not surprised by his son’s actions on that day in Afghanistan.

“He has nerves of steel,” Tim Burton said. “If you ever want to eat crow, tell Spencer Burton he can’t do something.”

Spencer Burton is stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he lives with his wife Britney Jackson Burton. They found out just last week they are expecting their first child.

Tim and Renae Burton will travel to Fort Campbell for an award ceremony on Nov. 7 to see their son receive his award.

Pendleton said there were 40 to 50 applicants for the Angels of the Battlefield awards, with 25 selected nationwide. Burton was one of two awardees selected for his brigade.