Newfane Soldier Saves Drowning Child While Overseas

September 10, 2013 Updated Sep 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

September 10, 2013 Updated Sep 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM EDT

Newfane, NY (WKBW) - A young soldier born and raised in Newfane is now getting incredible praise from the military, after his actions saved a young boy's life in South Korea.

"He's always been my hero, and now that he can be a hero for someone else, that just means so much for me," says Ashly Woods, the younger sister of 24-year-old Pfc. Shane Woods.

Already respected by so many in his hometown for his service to his country, it's now an act of bravery while off-duty that is catching the attention of so many.

"I heard yelling, so I looked over my shoulder and I saw a little girl trying to hold a boy above water," Woods tells Eyewitness News from his base in South Korea.

While at the Mud Festival with a friend and fellow soldier in South Korea, Woods rushed into the water to save the little boy from drowning. The rushing waters were sweeping him away.

"I felt like it was just my obligation because I saw it," Woods says, insisting that he is not a hero. "I heard the screaming and I went in, I didn't even think."

Saving the little boy had extra meaning for Woods.

He had just returned to South Korea after a trip back to Newfane. While visiting home, his childhood best friend, Pfc. Chris Heinz, drowned while training in Fort Hood, Texas. Heinz was also a Newfane native, and joined the U.S. Army shortly before Woods.

The boy was actually pulling me under water, so I was struggling msyelf," Woods recalls. "So afterwards, it took a toll on me to feel what he was going through a little bit. It was just really hard on me to think about the whole thing -- and that if I were there with Chris, I maybe could have saved him."

Woods says he believes the trip to the Mud Festival was fate. Mourning the loss of Heinz, he originally did not plan on going. However, a friend convinced him to come along at the last minute.

Pfc. Woods says that he is up for a medal to honor an act of bravery while off-duty.