"It is evident, that Specialist George B. Tice voluntarily risked his own safety by placing himself in an extremely hazardous position in order to save the lives of fellow soldiers." — U.S. Army award recommendation.
More than 23 years ago, during the first Gulf War, Fort Myers resident George Tice rescued a soldier injured in a fiery helicopter crash in Saudi Arabia. Sunday, Tice finally received the recognition due him for the act of heroism and bravery.
Tice, volunteer veterans coordinator for the Florida Tarpons indoor football league team, was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with "V" for Valor and five other medals at half-time Sunday at Germain Arena during a game between the Tarpons and the Corpus Christi Fury.
Tice is a former Army reservist who served in Operation Desert Storm. It was during that conflict that he faced a severe test of courage.
"It was on March 21, 1991, I was sitting in a tent getting ready to go to a town in Saudi Arabia just north of the Iraq border," he said. "I heard a chopper go over, and it hit a pole and went down."
Tice, an E-4 specialist working with a shower/decontamination unit, said he ran to the crash site and found the Chinook chopper in two pieces and burning.
"I entered the back half, it was on fire, and found a soldier in the wreckage," he said. After administering first aid, Tice said he went back to look for others as ammunition in the chopper exploded and and the intense heat washed over him. "He was the only survivor," he said. Four others died .
Tice qualified for the medal and was to be presented them on his return home.
"I was in the VA hospital and never got them," he said. The awards had been lost within the VA system and were eventually found in his medical records by his VA attorney Dan Smith of St. Petersburg.
"George went through a lot," Smith said. "He certainly deserved the medals. It was really important for George and his recovery."
Presenting the awards was State Rep. Ray Rodrigues, State Rep. Matt Caldwell and Bonita Springs City Councilmen Mike Gibson and Terry Miller.
"His actions were heroic," Rodrigues said Sunday. "I'm thankful the U.S. Army is recognizing his actions. What George did, totally disregarding his own safety is a testament to his character."
"George probably thinks of himself as an ordinary man," Caldwell said. "But everyone who puts on a uniform is extraordinary."
Tice has been a local proponent of helping veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and works closely with other area veterans organizations.
Tice's wife, daughter and family friends joined him on the Tarpon gridiron for the presentation.
Ed Ciofani, one of Tice's friends, said the Fort Myers resident does a lot for area veterans and certainly deserved the medals.
"He never stops trying to do for veterans," he said. "With all the adversity he's gone through, he still finds a way to help others. He's a phenomenal guy."
Ciofani said Tice is one of those people for whom actions speak louder than words.
"They say bravery is not a thought but an action," he said. "No doubt that's what George did."
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George Tice's medals
George Tice's awards included the Army Reserves Components Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with letter "M" Device, Kuwait Liberation Medal — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Liberation Medal — Kuwait, Southwest Asia Service Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medal with "V" for Valor attached.