Local soldier receives Medal of Valor

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kevin Clapper stands in front of his home on Vine Avenue in Albert Lea. —Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

ALBERT LEA — It was Kevin Clapper’s quick thinking and his family’s help that saved his neighbors from a house fire last year. Clapper, trained in the military to respond to crises, was recently honored for his heroics.

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Clapper, of Albert Lea, was awarded the Medal of Valor by his brigade commander Col. Eric Kerska at a ceremony on July 29. He, his family and other neighbors all helped Kristopher Schewe and Beth Sackson escape from a house fire next door.

“It was a lot of effort from family and neighbors,” Clapper said.

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Clapper’s son, Alex, awoke when he saw flames on April 12, 2011. Though they called the fire department immediately, they saw that the fire was so large already that they would need to do something. Clapper said he and his daughter, Amber, grabbed a ladder to break out the window of the couple’s bedroom.

“My whole thought process was ‘I don’t want them to die,’” Clapper said.

They got the couple out the window with just smoke inhalation. Clapper said his commander, Chris Andersen, heard about his actions and nominated Clapper for the Medal of Valor.

Clapper has been with the Minnesota National Guard for six years, but has a total of 19 years in the Army because he was with a unit in North Carolina. He deployed to the Gulf War in 1992 and ended his career at the rank of E-5.

He re-enlisted in 2006 when his daughter, Amber, had decided to enlist. He now has the rank of E-7, and he has deployed to both Kosovo and Kuwait. Clapper is a sergeant first class with the Headquarters Company, out of Mankato, of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment within the 34th “Red Bull” Division of the Minnesota National Guard. He said his recent deployments to Kosovo and Kuwait were much different than his tour in the early ’90s.

“You were living with limited resources,” Clapper said.

Now that he has returned from deployment he is looking for a full-time job. He has previously worked in maintenance and sanitation at several food processors.