As the USO honors Spc. Solomon J. Doss as the 2022 National Guardsman of the Year, the name might seem familiar.
There’s an explanation for that. He joined the National Guard, inspired by a distant uncle, Desmond Thomas Doss – the U.S. combat medic and Medal of Honor recipient that saved the lives of 75 men during WWII, despite refusing to pick up a weapon due to his religious beliefs.
Solomon only met his legendary uncle once as a child, but the brief meeting imprinted in his memory.
“I just wanted to do what he did or try to do better,” Solomon said.
Fifteen years later, Solomon followed through with his dream to be like his uncle and joined the Alabama National Guard’s 1166th Military Police Company. He started in 2019 and completed an 11-month overseas tour in Kuwait and Iraq before returning home to apply for a job at his hometown police department, eager to help more people.
The Piedmont Police Department was familiar with his family’s name, but not strictly for positive reasons. According to Solomon’s colleague, Officer Josh Parker, the guardsman’s father was one of the “regulars” in and out of trouble in the small community.
“It was a rough childhood, and Doss had to be his own man a lot,” said Parker, who has worked 18 years in law enforcement.
RELATED: Citizen airman becomes 2nd nurse in history to receive Distinguished Flying Cross
He said seeing the guardsman take on his new role in the department with such integrity and personal commitment is inspiring.
“I want to try to protect those people in those situations to where they don’t have to go through all of what I had to,” Solomon said.
Solomon and Parker were working as partners in Piedmont last August when a call came in about a woman trapped in a burning home. They sped to the scene, meeting an off-duty police officer who had unsuccessfully attempted to pull the victim out. The pair ran into the house without protective gear.
“My partner and I took no time other than just running in there,” Solomon said. “With me being in the National Guard, it taught me to just not think. In situations like that, it’s instinct. All the training and stuff I’ve had just went into effect, and I didn’t really have any thoughts of doing it.”
Parker said a chaotic scene unfolded inside the home, as smoke filled the air and the victim lost consciousness.
“There’s smoke everywhere; it’s very hot,” said Parker, adding that he heard something fall, and everything went black. “The roof had caved in, and I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve lost the kid.'”
A flood of relief came as Solomon reappeared, and the two officers exited to get air before dashing back into the home to get the 70-year-old victim to safety.
“We should have gotten severely hurt, but that would not have stopped us from doing it because you don’t just think about it. You just gotta do it,” Parker said. “(Doss) was only with us for a year then, but that’s where that Guard and the Army mentality comes in, you don’t give up.”
Once the police officers carried the victim safely outside, the three received medical treatment for smoke inhalation. Each escaped the incident without significant injuries.
“It feels good knowing that (she) survived and everything, and we were able to do that,” Solomon said. “That’s what I signed up to do. That’s what I wanted to do: always help people, and I’ve been able to do that so far.”
The USO recognizes honorees from military branches nominated by their command leadership for performing extraordinary acts of bravery.
Solomon was selected as the National Guardsman of the Year as he “exemplified the highest standards of the Army Values, but chief among these demonstrated was selfless service.”
With just a few years under his belt as a guardsman and a policeman, Solomon is proving his uncle’s extraordinary bravery might truly run in the family.Read comments