Japanese mayor commends US sailors for saving driver from burning vehicle
Stars and Stripes March 8, 2023
Two Navy sailors added another commendation to the accolades they received for saving a Japanese man from a burning car last year near their base in northeastern Japan.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Sorrem, of Wyoming, Minn., and Petty Officer 1st Class Andre Griffith, of Sunrise, Fla., received certificates of commendation on March 1 from Oirase Mayor Takashi Narita. Sorrem was present at the brief ceremony; Griffith has already moved on to a new duty station.
"You conducted rescuing efforts with fast and unerring judgment heedless of danger," reads the certificate Narita presented, a town official told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday. Some government officials in Japan customarily speak to the media on condition of anonymity.
“It felt great to feel like a part of the local community,” Sorrem told Stars and Stripes in an email Tuesday.
Of 26 people the mayor commended in the past year for good deeds, four went to individuals for their actions on April 17 – Sorrem, Griffith and two Japanese men, the official said.
Sorrem and Griffith recalled the event for Stars and Stripes in June, when they received commendations from the Oirase Fire Department.
Sorrem, a gunner’s mate with the base security forces, heard a crash as he walked to a vending machine that evening in Oirase, eight miles from Naval Air Facility Misawa. He rushed toward the sound and found a car had struck a light pole; the driver, dazed, was inside with his foot pressing down on the accelerator.
Smoke filled the vehicle as a fire grew from the engine compartment.
Griffith arrived shortly afterward and worked with Sorrem to pull the driver from the car. The Japanese men called an ambulance and attempted to put out the fire.
“I attempted to break the window but managed to get the driver to roll down the window enough to let me open the door and pull him from the vehicle to safety with the help of another sailor,” Sorrem said Tuesday.
The sailors moved the driver away from the car and administered first aid until paramedics arrived.
“It was pretty scary to see firsthand,” Griffith, an electronics technician, said last year. “But I rushed down and saw [Sorrem] there who was the only one doing anything, so I knew I had to help, as well.”