When a Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed into five NATO planes parked on a Spanish air base tarmac, U.S. Air Force Sgt. Greggory Swarz heard the deafening blast, spotted the giant firewall that resulted and sprinted straight toward the flames to pull out four French airmen.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian decorated the 30-year-old Swarz on Monday with the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, for "putting your life at peril" to drag the four out of the inferno.
The crash at Los Llanos base in January killed nine French airmen and two Greek pilots.
At Monday's ceremony at the Paris Air Show, four other U.S. airmen received France's National Defense gold medals for their roles in the rescue: Sgt. Jonathan MacNeely, Sgt. Eli Gordon, Sgt. John Escalante and Cpl. Matthew Jeffers.