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I knew immediately that all systems were not go, that something had just occurred that was not supposed to occur.

On Dec. 20, 2008, Lt. Col. Richard Lowe, a 12th Flying Training Wing instructor pilot and also a pilot for Continental Airlines was deadheading (aircrew who are flying on but not operating the aircraft) on CO Flight 1404 from Denver to Houston.

When the plane veered off the runway during takeoff and crashed, the cabin was engulfed in flames and fuel fumes. Amidst the ensuing chaos, Lowe, an experienced flight instructor with the 340th Reserves, remained composed. He worked alongside flight attendants to evacuate passengers, bravely re-entering the burning plane multiple times to ensure no one was left behind.

For his valor, Lt. Col. Lowe was awarded the Airman’s Medal – the highest non-combat honor bestowed by the Air Force. Despite his claim that he did nothing beyond what anyone else would do, his actions speak volumes of his character and leadership. Lowe’s willingness to risk his own life for the safety of the passengers highlights his exceptional bravery and dedication.

During the medal presentation, Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla, 10th Air Force commander, commended Col. Lowe on being, “an ordinary guy, doing an extraordinary deed.”

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