When Spc. Rene Rodriguez saw a woman being viciously attacked outside a coffee shop near Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, he asked himself what his father would do.
It was the middle of a warm October afternoon. There were plenty of onlookers, but no one was stepping in.
"My heart dropped because I saw someone being violently abused. I saw nobody was helping," Rodriguez recalled in an interview with Military.com. "I was scared ... nervous. But I just stepped outside of my car and let my instincts take action ... I was just by myself, there were people who could have come in and helped me, helped the situation. But people decided to look instead."
Rodriguez, a medic with the 25th Infantry Division, confronted the man, who, he said, reeked of alcohol. He was kicking and punching a woman in her early 30s. She was screaming for help, thinking she was going to die. He got between the two, shoving the man and swiftly put the woman into his car.
"As I get back in the car with her in it, the man opens the door, pulls her out and starts beating her again. I run out, push him," he said.
The woman got into Rodriguez's car again; the attacker smashed the passenger window as he started to drive away. Finally, police showed up and detained the assailant. Rodriguez said he and the woman made it out with relatively minimal injuries, some bruises and cuts from the broken window. He doesn't know what spurred the attack.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez is set to be awarded the Soldier's Medal, the service's highest award for heroism outside of combat.
"He used his body as a shield, endured numerous strikes from the assailant, all while moving the woman into his vehicle to depart the scene. He continued to protect the woman until law enforcement arrived on the scene," his award citation reads. "By his demonstrated heroism in risking his life to save another, Specialist Rodriguez's actions reflect great credit upon him, the 25th Infantry Division, and the United States Army."
The Soldier's Medal is among the rarest decorations in the Army.
"He had a bias for action," Maj. Gen. Joseph Ryan, the 25th Infantry Division commander, said about Rodriguez in a message to his formation. "We're damn proud of him."
In one example, the medal was previously awarded to Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, an Army Reserve colonel, for his actions during a 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball game.
Wenstrup rushed to Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House majority leader, who was shot. He administered first aid, including applying a tourniquet.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.