Honored for going above and beyond

By Stacy Floden, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Sgt. Raychel Pete from the 751st Troop Battalion received the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal May 19, 2019, for her efforts in response to the scene of a traffic accident and helping to provide support one year ago, May 19, 2018 in Frankfort, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – What was expected to be a normal drill weekend in May of 2018, turned interesting for Sgt. Raychel Pete and her supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson, as they headed to lunch and came across a three car accident. Next thing Pete knew, she was out directing traffic, calling police and making sure everyone involved was okay while Vaile-Nelson provided first aid to the victims.  The accident took place at the intersection of U.S. 60 and Carson Place in Frankfort, in which the vehicles partially blocked both U.S. 60 and Carson Place roadways from traffic.

“I had never been a part of something like this before,” said Pete. “I just knew I needed to guard the road and keep any more accidents from happening. It was definitely an experience.”

Pete assisted one passenger to safety in a grassy area.  She also realized that the third vehicle of the accident was still in the middle of the roadway so she ran onto U.S. 60 to direct traffic away from the scene.  After the arrival of the Frankfort Police Department, Pete retrieved one victim’s glasses and personal belongings from the vehicle that remained in traffic on U.S. 60.  This call to action earned Pete the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal, May 19, 2019 in Frankfort. Pete went above and beyond the call of traditional duty. She risked her own personal safety and had the courage to act when needed, embodying the role of the Citizen-Soldier. Her actions reflected the Army values.

“We’re incredibly honored to present this award to Raychel,” said Lt. Col. Adam Kearney, 751st commander. “This represents our organization and who we are, Kentuckians helping Kentuckians.”

Pete, who is with the 751st, has been in the Guard for six years and just recently reenlisted. She still doesn’t think much of what she did as anything special, she was just helping.

“We go through Combat Lifesaver training and when you are going through the class, you never think am I ever going to use it,” stated Pete. “That’s what I always thought, oh this is just a class we have to take.  But we actually had to use it.”

She said she never thought about getting hit while she was directing traffic. All I thought about was what I had to do to keep everyone safe.

“It’s a person’s natural instinct to run away from danger,” said Kearney. “Sgt. Pete did just the opposite. She ran to the danger and did whatever she could to help.”

She was shocked to hear she was going to be receiving an award, but humbled.

“I was nervous when I received the award. My parents even came,” she said. “But to hear the battalion commander say the things he did regarding something I didn’t think was a big deal was really neat. Our kindness was noticed even though we were doing something normal, or at least we thought was normal.”

Vaile-Nelson will also receive the service medal for her role as well.  “There is no telling when we will have to use our military skills.  Nobody expects to roll up on an accident, but we are blessed that we have basic first aid training to provide assistance.  Receiving the award is an honor, but it’s nothing extraordinary either of us did.  We saw people in danger and our military instincts took over.”

The Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces, DOD Civilian, DMA Civilian, and Allied Forces who has distinguished himself / herself through exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service or achievement.