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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Generals and commanders from all around the 2nd Infantry Division and the South Korean army “saluted” an Army private on Thursday.

No, the chain of command hasn’t been turned on its head.

More than 100 people gave a standing ovation to Pfc. Russell McCanless, 27, after he received the Soldier’s Medal for saving a paralyzed South Korean woman from a burning building in Uijeongbu on July 1, 2006.

“His personal courage proved to the world ... what being a soldier is all about,” said 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. James Coggin, who pinned the medal on McCanless.

The Soldier’s Medal is the noncombat equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross and normally is reserved for servicemembers who risk their lives to save others.

“I’m very honored,” McCanless said. “I didn’t expect anything this big for one little act.”

McCanless was doing handstand push-ups across the street from Camp Red Cloud’s main gate with then-Pvt. Reid Erickson at 11:30 on a Saturday night when they noticed smoke rising from the New York Subs building.

An elderly woman, Jung Jin-sun, came down the outside stairs of the two-story building shouting to the soldiers in English: “Come in, come in!”

Staff Sgt. David Newman took care of the woman and called the 119 emergency line, while McCanless and Erickson ran into the burning apartment.

There they spotted Jung’s paralyzed daughter, Park Young-hui, 48, and carried her to safety.

Jung later thanked the soldiers, and local residents rewarded them with 600,000 won — about $600 — for their actions. The soldiers donated the money to a local orphanage.

“I didn’t do this for the money or fame,” said McCanless, of Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion. “All I was thinking about was saving people ... and hoping that someone would do the same for me.”

Erikson has moved to Fort Benning, Ga., officials said, but his Soldier’s Medal was forwarded to his new command.

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