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Wisconsin National Guard Soldier saves choking toddler

By Sgt. Katie Eggers | Wisconsin National Guard | Dec. 20, 2017

CHICAGO — A Wisconsin National Guard Soldier traveling on military orders performed the Heimlich maneuver on a toddler, saving the girl's life Dec. 7 at O'Hare International Airport.

Spc. Jasmyne Harris, a supply specialist with the Milwaukee-based 32nd Military Police Company, was waiting for a flight to Oklahoma City to learn about new protective masks her unit would be receiving, when she decided to grab some food before her flight.

"I was going to stop at one restaurant, but then something told me to just keep going, so I found another restaurant that's actually by the gate," Harris said.

Right as Harris sat down there was a commotion. A waitress yelled that a girl was choking. Harris saw that the toddler wasn't making a sound, and the mother was unsure of how to properly help her child.

"I just went straight into reaction mode," Harris said.

Harris went straight over to the family and began performing the Heimlich maneuver on the child until the girl was able to breathe again and started crying.

Harris said she felt relieved after she knew the girl was going to be all right.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Grodsky, an automated logistics noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 257th Brigade Support Battalion, was walking by when he saw the whole incident and commended Harris. He said there were about 15 people in the area when the toddler was choking.

"They were all kind of frozen in place and not sure what to do, whereas [Harris] just took that step up and actually acted more in a Soldier capacity, being able to handle a stressful situation and not freak out or freeze up," .Grodsky said.

Harris learned the different versions of the Heimlich maneuver for different ages while taking a lifeguarding course in high school. This was the second time she performed the Heimlich maneuver on someone who was choking. Harris said that years ago, her younger brother was choking on a piece of candy, and she saved him.

The toddler didn't require any other medical attention following the incident. The girl's family was grateful that Harris intervened, she said. Harris's training in the military and as a lifeguard helped her to remain calm and know what to do. That's the sort of mindset expected of Soldiers and Airmen in the National Guard, who are always ready, and always there serving as our nation's first military responder and as the Army and Air Force's primary combat reserve.

"If you're in a situation where you have to act on it, don't think twice," Harris said. "Just act, and everything will come like second nature."