Running late on his way to pick up a new fishing boat after work on Valentine's Day, Lance Cpl. David S. Shouse drove through the small town of Boiling Spring Lakes when he saw a truck engulfed in flames.
Shouse, a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point supply clerk, instantly pulled over to see what was going on. Inside the truck, 59-year-old Steven Early was stuck, desperately trying to pry himself out.
"I was going to call 911 right away, but then I saw him," said Shouse, a Ripley, Ohio, native. "The only thing going through my mind when I saw him was, 'There's a guy in that truck and I have to get him out.'"
Shouse grabbed Early's flailing arm, pulled him out of the truck and dragged him a safe distance from the fire.
"The fire was so huge and I was worried for the man's life," said Shouse. "I thought he was going to be very hurt."
Luckily, Early was the only person in the vehicle. All of the truck's tires were melted down and the entire vehicle, aside from where Early sat, was an inferno, Shouse said.
"With how big the flames were, I kept thinking, 'Please don't explode,'" he said. "I thought it was going to be like the movies."
Like the movies is right, the kind of movies where heroes spring from seemingly ordinary people.
"When he called me and told me what happened, I didn't believe him," said Lance Cpl. Scott A. Laroche, Shouse's good friend and roommate. "It doesn't surprise me though that Shouse would do something like this."
He's known for always being there for his fellow Marines, said Laroche. On many occasions, he's changed his plans for the benefit of somebody else, whether it's been taking duties for people, giving rides or just offering up a place to crash for the night.
In front of several hundred fellow Marines two days after the rescue, Shouse's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Samuel P. Mowery, commended his selflessness.
"Your actions outside the work place are indicative of what you do in the work place," said Mowery.
Shouse said he was just glad he was there and that the man was OK.
"It's good I was running late to pick up my boat," he said. The only thing that bothered him was the fact that he saw cars in front of him drive past the flaming vehicle.
"I don't understand why anyone would do that," he said. Luckily, Shouse was willing to drop everything, including a boat, just to help someone out.
"He truly cares about others and doesn't expect or want anything in return," said Laroche. "We need more people in this world like Shouse."