Belinda Ayamgha, GNA
Accra, Feb. 27, GNA - The Ambassador of the United States to Ghana has praised the late Private First Class (PFC) Emmanuel Owusu Mensah, for his courage and selflessness when saving lives in the fire outbreak in an apartment in Bronx, New York.
Mr Robert Porter Jackson, the Ambassador, described the late PFC Mensah as an American hero, who embodied the noblest values of the profession of arms even while off duty.
Speaking at a memorial ceremony organised by the Embassy in honour of PFC Mensah, Ambassador Jackson said PFC Mensah’s example teaches the truest meaning of citizenship, which was shaped and defined by his character, courage and honour.
PFC Mensah lost his life in what has been described as one of the deadliest fires in New York City on December 28th, 2017 when after safely exiting the burning building, he went back four times into the Bronx apartment where he lived, to rescue other residents who were trapped in the burning building.
On his fourth trip back into the inferno, he was overcome by the thick smoke and lost his life.
“He performed these acts of heroism at the expense of his own life, which we honour today. The Holy Scriptures tell us that: ‘Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends’. Emmanuel’s heroic actions demonstrated that highest form of love,” said Ambassador Jackson.
PFC Mensah’s story, according to Ambassador Jackson, reflected the American story, in which citizens and immigrants like him, become heroes by doing extraordinary things in pursuit of serving others.
“They place others first-always-before self. Their lives are an inspiration to us all,” he said adding that, his life exemplified the unbreakable bonds between the peoples and nations of America and Ghana.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Lee, of the US Marine Corps and Senior Defence Official at the US Embassy Accra, paid glowing tribute to the fallen soldier, saying, PFC Mensah’s acts of self-sacrifice exemplified the highest values a US Military Service member.
“That day, he demonstrated a level of courage that cannot be taught but which all militaries around the world hope to instil in their soldiers,” and urged the family of PFC Mensah to be proud as his actions embodied the values taught to him by his family and the US army.
Lt. Col Lee said it was important, not only to mourn the loss of PFC Mensah, but to celebrate his life and memorialise the positive values that were demonstrated on February 28, 2017, and find ways to make the world slightly better as he exhibited.
Paying a solemn and emotional tribute to PFC Mensah, Mr Kwadwo Oduro, an uncle of the late Soldier, described the generous nature of PFC, whose desire to join United States Army, was borne out of his desire to see real justice served, with a dream to become a US Marine in the future.
“Yaw had a natural urge for real justice; he desired to see a world where the weak were not trodden upon by the strong, and to ensure that the poor were given a hand by the rich; a world where love led the way.”
He said though he, and the family was saddened that his life and military career were snuffed out too soon, they could not be any prouder of him than they were, as he was honoured, not just as a valiant soldier, but as a giant among men, willing to risk it all to save just one more person.
“In our tears, we are still proud of you, because you rose when others froze; when the heat from the inferno rose, my proud black boy rose. Son of fire, son of the land, out of the blaze, you rose, never to be forgotten by a foreign land,” he concluded in tears.
When the citation of the Soldiers Medal, the highest award for heroism outside of combat, awarded to him posthumously was read, the atmosphere was sad and solemn, as no response was heard when his name was mentioned three times during the final roll call, after which his fellow American officers paid their last respect.
PFC Mensah was the third of five children. He was born on 11 April, 1991 in Accra to Kwabena Mensah and the late Beatrice Owusu. He completed his primary and middle school studies in Accra between 1997 and 2006 he studied mechanical engineering at the Saint Paul’s Technical School in the Eastern region from 2006 to 2009 and enrolled in Information Technology at IPMC.
He migrated to the US in 2012, worked for American Airline from 2013 through 2017 and joined the US Army in December 2017. He was home for the holidays prior to reporting for duty at the 107th Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard when the fire, caused by a three-year old playing with a stove in one of the apartments, broke out.