An off-duty National Guard Soldier lost his life while attempting to save his Bronx neighbors from a deadly apartment fire last December.
Private Emmanuel Mensah, a first-generation immigrant, was just 28 when he lost his life in the New York blaze.
Mensah and his family immigrated to America from Ghana years ago — and the first thing Mensah wanted to do when he arrived was give back to his new country by serving it.
“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,'” Emmanuel’s father, Kwabena Mensah, told the New York Post. As such, in December 2016, Emmanuel Mensah joined the National Guard.
A year later, in December 2017, Mensah returned to his home in the Bronx for the first time since enlisting. He was in his apartment building when a fire broke out.
Investigators later found that the blaze had been started by a 3-year-old who was playing with a kitchen stove.
Mensah managed to escape the building — but as his father recalled, his nature was to help others. The National Guard Soldier went back into the building a whopping three times to rescue his neighbors. On the first two tries, he managed to rescue four lives — but on the third, he never made it back out.
Thanks to Mensah, the fire claimed only 12 lives, instead of 16. Four of the dead were children.
For his heroic deed, on Jan. 1, 2018, the U.S. Army posthumously awarded Mensah the Soldier’s Medal for PFC. The citation read:
His courageous and selfless act in the face of unimaginable conditions are consistent with the highest traditions of uniformed service and deserving of the highest possible recognition.
Staff Sgt. Ruben Martinez-Ortiz, who knew Mensah, described him as “the embodiment of what our Army Values stand for.”
“I knew from the moment I met him his heart was a big as our National Guard family. He was ready to serve our nation and community,” Martinez-Ortiz said.
The following day, Mensah’s home state followed suit, awarding him the New York State Medal for Valor.
“His heroism exemplifies the best of our city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said of Mensah. “Rest in Peace.”