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Fort Drum soldier’s 2011 heroics to be honored today by Canadian government

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A Fort Drum soldier’s bravery following a fiery 2011 bus crash in Waterloo will be recognized by the Canadian government during a ceremony today.

Staff Sgt. Jacob J. Perkins will receive the Medal of Bravery from David Johnston, Canada’s governor general, in a ceremony in Ottawa. He is the only American of the 43 people to be honored during the ceremony. Only 48 Americans have ever been awarded the medal.

Sgt. Perkins, of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is credited with pulling out 26 of the 52 people on the Canadian bus, which had been hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer about 1:30 a.m. July 22, 2011, as it attempted to re-enter the road on Interstate 90 heading east.

Sgt. Perkins, heading home to Mountain Grove, Mo., for his block leave, went to aid victims after seeing the crash while driving in the opposite direction.

“The only thought was get them off, make sure they’re safe,” he told the Times in October 2012.

Though about 30 people suffered injuries, the only reported fatality was the tractor-trailer’s driver.

After helping people off the bus, he then helped a Canadian family in the crash reconnect with a loved one who had been airlifted from the scene. Starting about 3 a.m., Sgt. Perkins first drove Michelle and Sandra Blair for hours to Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital, then to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse to reconnect with William Blair, who was badly injured in the crash.

He remained with the London, Ontario-based family for hours, until more of their relatives could arrive.

Mrs. Blair said Wednesday that the Canadian award meant the world to her and others on the bus at the time of the crash.

“Without everything he did that night, our lives would be different,” she said.

After sleeping at the state police barracks in Syracuse, he then made the 19-hour drive home to his family. Following his work at the crash scene, he had told his parents only that he would be coming home late.

Sgt. Perkins said he was surprised his actions generated so much interest.

“I didn’t feel like I did anything to deserve the attention,” he said.

Mrs. Blair said that Sgt. Perkins has kept contact with her family since that day, and that she looked forward to seeing him at the ceremony.

The Canadian award is one of several awards presented to the sergeant since that day. The Army awarded him the Soldier’s Medal, one of its highest noncombat honors, and he was named the 2012 Army Soldier of the Year by the USO.

Mrs. Blair’s letter to the Times about Sgt. Perkins can be found at http://wdt.me/wL3XDF.

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