Hero’s Story: Ex-Marine’s Fast Action Saved Trooper
Roy Aden didn’t hesitate when he saw a man grab a gun away from a policeman.
“If you don’t help someone in need, then you’re a failure,” he said. “And one failure can destroy your whole life.”
Aden, 48, a former Marine who still wears the crew cut, jumped in when state trooper Christopher Phillips was on the verge of losing a life-and-death struggle in front of the Skyland, N. C., service station where Aden worked.
“I feel good about being recognized, but I didn’t do it for that,” he said. “I’d like to think another person would do the same thing.”
After working the late-night shift at the Exxon station last Feb. 11, Aden saw Phillips pull over a motorist in front of the gas pumps. As the trooper approached the car, the driver got out and pulled out a large hunting knife.
Phillips took the weapon away and the man bolted. Phillips caught up with him and they struggled. As he tried to cuff him, the man grabbed Phillips’ revolver from its holster.
That’s when Aden rushed to the trooper’s aid.
“He was on top of the trooper and I came up from behind and pulled him off. That’s when I saw the gun point up in the air,” Aden said. “The man screamed, ‘Get away! I’ve got a gun!’ I held his arm and the gun went off.
“We were struggling and we went down. This guy was pretty strong. It took both of my hands to hold his one hand. Then Trooper Phillips regained his balance and the two of us grabbed hold of the gun.
“I didn’t even think about what had happened until it was over,” Aden said. “He could have killed both of us.”
When word of his deed hit the local news, Aden was honored as a hero. He received awards from the highway patrol, several local civic organizations and Gov. Jim Martin.
“To tell you the truth, if I didn’t help, I wouldn’t have been able to look at myself in the mirror the next morning,” he said. “My mother and father raised me to know the difference between right and wrong.”
Aden says he is far from infallible. He’s been married three times, the last 10 years to his wife, Pat, who urged her husband to intervene when she saw the trooper in trouble.
With Pat’s help, Aden said, he has kicked a drinking problem. The day before he received the Carnegie award and a $2,500 cash prize, he lived up to his promise to her and went to church for the first time in years. He used part of the prize money to help his sister pay some overdue bills.
Aden said he found it difficult to accept the Carnegie award after he learned that three of the 17 others so honored had died in their attempts to save lives.
It reminded him of how he felt on receiving the Silver Star and other medals on his return from duty in Vietnam, where many of his friends were killed or seriously injured.
“The ones who died--those are the real heroes,” he said. “I may have risked my life, but they gave it.”