35th MDG team member saves life off duty

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leon Redfern
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Imagine getting out of the shower after a long jog on a normal Sunday evening and noticing a strange orange light glowing outside your bathroom window.

You think to yourself “It’s probably just a car’s headlights driving by,” until you recognize an unusual flourishing wave pattern expanding out from the immense glare.

Masayuki Tenma, 35th Medical Support Squadron medical logistic flight master labor contractor, experienced this exact situation at his childhood home in the small town of Shichinohe, Japan, on Sept. 27, 2021.

Eerily walking towards the bathroom window, Tenma investigated the strange light to shockingly discover the illumination was coming from his neighbor’s house nearly engulfed in flames. He sprang into action telling his wife to dial the Japanese emergency number to help the neighbors he had known all his life.

“As I ran outside the neighbor’s elderly mother was pleading for help on the street,” said Tenma. “I noticed her handicapped 65 year-old son “Shin” was nowhere in sight so I asked “where he was at?””

She shakenly replied, “he’s still inside the house.”

“My instinct was only thinking about everything I could do to save him,” Tenma said. “Shin has been one of my closest friends since I was a child.”

Tenma bolted towards the front of the house, as smoke billowed out of the blocked entryway and immediately called out his name.

“It wasn’t possible to enter or see anything through the front door,” said Tenma. “I kept calling out his name and focused all my energy on recognizing any feasible noise coming from the house.”

Fortunately, Tenma heard what he had hoped to be Shin’s muffled voice coming from the living room.

“With the whole front entrance being enveloped in flames and debris I knew it was too late to try and go through the front door,” said Tenma. “I ran around the side of the house to try and find an opening to get in.”

Luckily, Tenma found the living room window accidentally left open by the neighbor, spouting out a thick cloud of smoke. Tenma hurdled through the window and entered the dense, murky house finding Shin laying unresponsive on the living room floor.

“Despite all the fumes in my lungs and smoke in my eyes I had to carry him towards the window to get him out,” said Tenma. “The fire kept growing bigger, so once we got out I carried him as far away from the house as I could.”

Shortly after Tenma rescued Shin from the house, Shichinohe’s first responders arrived on scene to help stop the fire and provide medical assistance. Shin fell unconscious due to the carbon monoxide emissions, but luckily was medically cleared that night.

“I don't want to be considered a hero, I just did what I consider the right thing to do,” Tenma said. “I’d like to believe anybody in that position would have done the same thing.”

Tenma was awarded by the Shichinohe Fire Department on Nov. 5, 2021, for his brave and courageous actions to save a community member's life.

“Tenma risked his own personal safety to save his neighbor, reflecting the Air Force’s core value of service before self,” said Tech. Sgt. Darren Smith, 35th Medical Support Squadron medical logistic flight, flight chief. “He brings great pride not only to the members on base, but to his community as well.”