A Royal Marine from Shirley has been awarded the George Medal after he repeatedly climbed into the burning wreckage of a US helicopter in Afghanistan to rescue injured soldiers.
Lance Corporal Ryan Shelley, a medic with 40 Commando Charlie Company, and four of his Marine colleagues, clambered into the helicopter - shot down by a rocket-propelled Taliban grenade - as the ammunition and aviation fuel on board exploded around them.
The crash, which happened in June last year, instantly killed the four-man medical team on board the chopper, but the Marines rescued the two unconscious pilots and the door gunner by cutting off their boots.
The 26-year-old returned to the burning wreckage three times and carried out an emergency tracheotomy to open the airway of the pilot who had suffered a massive head injury.
L/Cpl Shelley who has a two-year-old daughter Lilly-Su and a four-month-old son Charlie, has been credited with showing “extraordinary courage”.
Proud mum Susan, a school uniform seller, described Ryan as a “genuine hero”.
Susan, aged 52, also mother to 24-year-old Dean, said: “The way he has reacted sums him up really. He is golden and very modest.
“He cannot understand why he has got the medal ahead of his colleagues.
“He loves his job and his attitude is that they all played their part.”
David Wisniewski, the 31-year-old pilot, died of his injuries in hospital in America a month after the crash, while the co-pilot made a good recovery and the door gunner survived his burns.
Ryan joined the Royal Marines aged 18 and served in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan last year. Before training as a Royal Marine medic, he was a driver.
He returned to the UK at the end of his tour in October and is based with his wife Lyndsey and children in Taunton, Somerset.