The foggy morning of Dec. 10, 2015, was not the first time Dallas Root of Springfield would save someone’s life, prying open the blood-soaked woman’s jaw with an ink pen so she wouldn’t suffocate on her own tongue before paramedics arrived.
A decade before, he jumped into an ice-covered lake to pull out a truck driver slipping into hypothermia.
For these feats, Root, a master sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard, was awarded the Ohio Cross on Saturday for the second time in his distinguished career.
Before pinning on the award in front of hundreds of members of the 178th Wing and Root’s proud family, Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman — commander of the Ohio National Guard — noted Root’s unique accomplishment.
“It’s pretty rare that anybody would receive the Ohio Cross really even once in their lifetime, much less twice,” Bartman said.
The award recognizes putting one’s own life at risk to save another’s. Bartman said that Root, in earning it, exemplified the role of the National Guard — committed to our nation’s defense but also an important part of our community.
Root works for the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Columbus and was on his way to work in December when he pulled up to a three-car accident at the Hilliard-Rome exit on Interstate 70.
“It was so foggy that day you probably couldn’t see 100 feet in front of you,” he said.
The crash had left the driver of the middle car gasping for breath, her car seat broken, jaw clenched shut. It had been years since he worked on the road, but Root said his patrol training and guard training both kicked in as he called for dispatchers to send help while rushing in to provide CPR.
But her jaw was clenched shut, so Root said he grabbed a nearby pen and used it to pry her mouth open.
He said, in retrospect, it would have been easy to just drive by and assume somebody else would help. “Don’t be afraid to do something,” he said.
Root’s first Ohio Cross was awarded in 2005. As a state trooper, he responded to a call that a semi had driven into a frozen pond on the border between Warren and Clermont counties. The pond had been covered in ice a half-inch thick, and the truck driver was 20 feet in, clinging to his rear view mirror for roughly 20 minutes by the time Root arrived. Nearly the entire cab of the truck was submerged.
Root stripped off his gun and vest, tied a rope around himself and dove in. Bystanders took the other end of the rope to pull them both out.
Root said receiving the Ohio Cross for a second time Saturday was “overwhelming.”
“I’m glad I can represent the Air National Guard and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, my two passions in life,” he said.
“For someone to win (the Ohio Cross) twice is extremely rare,” said base commander Col. John Knabel. “(For the recipient) to come from this wing really says a lot about what we do here and the environment we try to create and the airmen that we produce here at the 178th Wing, and we’re extremely proud.”