COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A Fort Moore private was honored for heroism this afternoon on the post. 

And the U.S. Army brought in one of the big guns – four-star Gen. Gary M. Brito – to bestow the honor. 

Private 1st Class Matthew Cole was awarded the Soldier’s Medal – and promoted.

Back in late May, Private Cole, at the end of his Basic Training, was down on the Columbus Riverwalk when he went into the Chattahoochee to save a father and daughter from the rapidly rising water. 

Cole of Martinsburg, West Va., was awarded the Soldier’s Medal by Gen. Brito, head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. 

The medal is for heroism not involving conflict with an enemy. 

It also earned Cole a promotion to Private 1st Class.

It was Memorial Day weekend when Cole was at the Riverwalk with his family. Brito says there were likely two factors at play when Cole went into the river. 

“No doubt, some of his thought process and willingness to help somebody else probably started at home,” Brito said. “So, I commend his family, coaches, anybody that instilled that level of character and behavior. To fast forward a little, I know for sure the level of training he receives here and across the Army and any one of our installations, builds that same level of care for you battle buddy, the importance of teamwork and having the courage to do something in the face of danger. This case, though not wartime, was something dangerous.” “

Brito had praise for Cole’s family and even had the soldier call his father so the general could talk to him.

“I commend the institution for that and whatever he brought from his kitchen table before he joined the Army,” Brito said.

If a medal and a promotion were not enough, how many times does a private have the floor turned over to him by a four-star general? 

“This represents great soldiers and I know he would do this for any one of his battle buddies,” Brito said. “And I know every one of you would have done the same thing as well if you were in that situation. This represents the greatness of all of the soldiers that join our Army and I could not be more proud of you. Thank you, buddy. Well done. The speech is yours if you want to.” 

Cole was a man of few words. He and his classmates are 20 weeks into training and about two weeks from granduating.

“We are almost done,” he said to loud applause.

Cole will remain on Fort Moore when he graduates and attend Airborne School. He will then be assigned to Fort Liberty in North Carolina.