MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mass Communications Specialist First Class Jeffery Atherton held his commendation medal with pride.
"I'm grateful I was able to stay calm in the situation."
On August 25 when Atherton came across a crash on I-40 on his way home from work things were anything but calm.
"When I curved around the road I noticed there was a car smoking on the side."
Atherton pulled over and jumped into action.
His Navy training kicked in immediately when he saw a woman outside her car with severe injuries.
"I checked for a pulse and she had a pulse, but she wasn't breathing at the time. But she took a big deep breath and opened her eyes," he told WREG.
Atherton held the woman's hand and kept her conscious until paramedics made it to the crash.
"We went through some blinking drills. I had her blink that she acknowledged me. She couldn't talk."
"Our training has taught us that sometimes it's just kind words and keeping them there, maintaining that eye contact that's valuable," he added.
As Atherton comforted the woman, an off-duty paramedic arrived.
While they took over care for the victim, Atherton directed traffic near the crash.
WREG has learned the woman is still in the hospital after losing her arm in the crash.
Atherton visited her there, and meet her son.
"He had tears in his eyes and he was crying and he hugged me and thanked me for saving his mom. He said he didn't know what he would do without his mom. That was really special to me."
Atherton said you don't have to be a first responder or service member to be a hero.
"I think the important message to people is if you see something do something. You may not know how to give CPR and you may not know how to apply a trunicate but you can go hold someone's hand and comfort them."
Atherton said there were also other people who stopped to help.
He said this is a reminder how hard Memphis first responders work everyday.