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Defense Honors Private Citizens for Pentagon Heroism

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2002 – The Defense Department honored two private citizens today for their bravery during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001.

Steve A. DeChiaro and Eric M. Jones received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor during a ceremony at the Pentagon. "When the aircraft hit the Pentagon, these young men moved out smartly to help others," said Army Lt. Gen. John Van Alstyne, deputy assistance defense secretary for military personnel policy.

Jones was driving near the Pentagon when he saw the hijacked airliner slam into the building. He stopped his car and ran to the area. He directed people to safety and then began to evacuate injured personnel.

"We're proud of what we did, but we don't understand why we are singled out when so many others did the same things," Jones said at the ceremony. He said he and DeChiaro accept the award as representatives of all those who helped.

DeChiaro was walking into the building entrance from the south parking lot when the plane hit. He immediately went to the impact area and started evacuating the injured and the dying.

Both men carried and helped people to safety and to medical triage. Both were cited for their bravery immediately following the attack.

But the story didn't end there. Jones and DeChiaro remained on the scene and "helped out in any way they could," Van Alstyne said. This meant, among other duties, helping to recover the bodies of those killed in the attack. The two remained at their volunteer posts for more than 72 hours, he said.

DeChiaro said he was humbled and honored to receive the award. He asked that "we as Americans never forget that day and those lost in the attack." And he called on all Americans "to keep the families of those who died in service to America in our prayers forever."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEric M. Jones, Steve A. DeChiaro listen as Army Lt. Gen. John Van Alstyne speaks during a ceremony where they received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor. The Pentagon presentation was on July 15, 2002. Photo by Jim Garamone.  
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