When he helped save a 22-month-old child from a burning building Jan. 21, Donald Beach wasn’t thinking about the honors he’d receive in the future.
Beach was thinking about how to break the window of his neighbor’s north Spokane apartment so he and his wife could get inside and rescue Jonathan Chappell.
On Sunday, the 27-year-old Naval Reservist was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, one of the Navy’s most prestigious awards.
The award was a surprise.
“I didn’t know all these people would be here,” Beach said. “I was in the bathroom and I saw one of my cousins, and I thought, `Oh boy.”’
About 30 of Beach’s family members watched Beach receive the award. His wife, Fawn, also received a letter of appreciation from the Navy.
“Unfortunately, the Navy is not authorized to award medals to civilians,” said Capt. Richard F. Jewell, commanding officer of the local reserve center.
After the ceremony, Patti Inman was beaming as she snapped pictures of Beach holding her son Jonathan Chappell, who wore red corduroy overalls.
Inman and the Beaches were good friends before the fire. Inman had come to their apartment on Jan. 21 to ask for help moving boxes. They smelled smoke when they returned to the apartment.
The fire started from a mix of air freshener and burning incense, Fawn Beach said.
“It was really scary,” she said.
Donald Beach said the fire made him think of his own children, ages 2 and 10 months.
“All I could think about, really, is it could’ve been my own kids,” he said. “It was so fast.”