The back of the Parker's home, where the fire started
PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - As JROTC Cadets, Charles Peel and Daniel Brigman work on building their physical and mental strength every day at Pender High School, but both said they never could have imagined they would need the training so soon.
"It's hard to believe it happened, it feels like it was a dream," said 17-year-old Charles Peel.
He says he was walking his dog early Sunday morning when he saw smoke coming from the house two doors down on Penderlea Highway. He says he didn't think twice before waking up his best friend, Daniel, and racing over to the home.
When they got there, one of the residents said his parents were still inside. The two young men said they hurried into the thick, dark smoke.
"It was a really thick, choking feeling," said Peel. "You couldn't hold your breath for too long or you would start coughing." The young men said they found James and Shirley Parker struggling in the smoke.
"She was coughing and wheezing," said Peel. The boys physically picked them up, with Peel carrying Shirley and Brigman carrying James, and they rushed outside.
"She was startled...she didn't know who we were or what we were doing. All she knew was that she was being lifted up," said Peel. "They were definitely shocked," added Brigman.
The story doesn't end there. Without her oxygen tank, the cadets say Shirley was having a hard time breathing, so they went back inside a second time to look for her oxygen tank. The boys say they had to feel around in the dark in order to find it.
While many are calling the boys heroes, they say they were just following their instincts and doing what was necessary.
"Just in the right place at the right time," said Peel. "It's a good feeling that we were able to do something worth doing."
Shirley Parker is still recovering at the hospital from smoke inhalation; however, emergency management officials say if the boys hadn't stepped in, things could have been even worse.
The Pender High School JROTC Program is nominating the boys for the Medal of Heroism -- a very high honor for JROTC Cadets.