DERRY, N.H. — It took seven years, but a local man was finally honored for his lifesaving efforts.
U.S. Coast Guard Reservist David Fencer received the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal in a ceremony May 3 at the U.S. Coast Guard Base in Boston.
Fencer, a machinery technician first class, was honored for his efforts rescuing trapped passengers in a burning car following an accident near his home in August 2007.
The 47-year-old was in the right place at the right time.
Fencer was awakened in the night by the sound of a vehicle hitting a stone wall near his home on Floyd Road. The car overturned and began to burn.
He responded as a Good Samaritan, getting to the scene to see two passengers trapped inside the burning car and gas leaking from the vehicle.
“It happened about 50 feet up the road, the driver lost control and the car landed on its roof,” Fencer said.
His memory for detail is still very clear. Fencer said everything happened quickly.
He had a friend call for emergency services and ran to get two kitchen fire extinguishers. The occupants were two young men. One occupant was able to get free, but Fencer had to climb inside the vehicle to help the second person get free. That came after he crawled on broken glass and in spilled fluid to reach the other person.
“I never got the flames out, but I was able to buy some time,” Fencer said. “I got them both safely away from the vehicle and emergency crews soon arrived.”
After the accident, Fencer said, he went on with his work, not speaking much about what happened or his heroics, but occasionally telling the story to someone.
Years passed and he moved to a new position in Boston with the Coast Guard. He told the accident story to more coworkers and friends.
Eventually, someone said Fencer should get a medal for what he had done.
“Some people pushed for me on this, more than I pushed for myself,” he said.
Seven years later, the recognition came.
The award credited Fencer for being in the right place, and doing his duty to help others.
“Petty Officer Fencer’s dedication and devotion to duty are most highly commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard,” the award read.
Fencer reports every month to the Coast Guard and also spends two weeks a year on duty.
When not on duty, he is a self-employed construction business owner.
The Coast Guard was his calling about 10 years ago. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Fencer said he did research on different parts of the military and found a home with the Guard.
“I kind of needed to know if I was doing this because of patriotism or just because I wanted it for a long time,” he said. “(The decision) includes your family, too.”
Fencer has had many special opportunities while serving in the Coast Guard, meeting presidents, working with Secret Service and working on important details.
Saving those two lives that night on Floyd Road also makes the list, he said.
Joanna Fencer said she and her entire family are very proud of her husband and what he did to save others.
“We are extremely proud of David,” she said. “He is our hero, amazing husband and father. He loves to serve his country and takes it very seriously.”
She said it’s not unusual for her husband to jump into rescue mode.
He has been known to assist people having choking issues in restaurants and has also stopped to assist at other accidents.
“He finds himself in similar situations all over the place,” she said.
That’s a good thing, she said, as he is always ready to help someone in need.
Fencer said he is humbled by the award.
“It’s the greatest honor bestowed upon me in my Coast Guard career,” he said.