Pittman receives Army’s 7th highest honor

Sgt. E.H. Pittman receives the Soldier's medal

By Traci Chapman,

An area Oklahoma Army National Guard soldier was honored Aug. 3 with its seventh highest service award.

Sgt. E.H. Pittman of Norman was given the Soldier’s Medal for his actions during the May 20, 2013, Moore tornado. The Soldier’s Medal is awarded for “heroic acts not involving direct contact with an enemy,” Oklahoma adjutant general Maj. Gen. Myles Deering said.

Pittman, 30, had recently returned from a year-long Afghanistan deployment with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and was working at a 7-Eleven at S.W. 4th Street and Telephone Road in Moore when the May 20 tornado struck. Pittman and a co-worker rushed customers into a bathroom as the tornado hit. Using his body to shield eight adults and a baby taking refuge there, Pitman suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Deering said. He also had a gash across his back and two on his head that took 12 staples to close, the adjutant general said.

“People like Sgt. Pittman – they go above and beyond what traditional soldiers do to defend and support our state,” Deering said.

Three people in the 7-Eleven did not survive. Megan Futrell, 29, and her 4-month-old son, Case, and Terri Long, 49, died there. Pittman’s actions “no doubt” saved the others sheltering at the location, Deering said. Rescuers reported Pittman directed them to the location of others who sheltered at the store even as they were attempting to stabilize his condition, he said.

“That’s what makes us different and sets us apart,” Deering said. “Even in the context of Sgt. Pittman’s civilian job, saving lives and protecting others is what we do, even in the face of adversity.”

Pittman said he found irony in a situation where he faced extreme chances of injury in Afghanistan without incident, only to be injured at home. He estimated he took part in about 500 combat missions while deployed.

“I was shot at and walked away each time,” Pittman said. “I didn’t (walk away) from this. It’s kind of strange because in combat you feel safe because you’re so focused on the mission. Then you come home and this happens.

“You get complacent, but once you hear those (tornado) sirens, your instincts kick in and you rely on your training to do what you have to do to survive,” he added.

Pittman is only the third person in Oklahoma Army National Guard since 9/11 to receive the Soldier’s Medal. The award is equivalent to the Silver Star given in combat, Deering said.

“I love you guys,” Deering said. “You’re always a soldier and always welcome to serve in our ranks.

“Thank you for what you do,” he said.