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Michigan National Guard Soldier saved Flint resident's life during water crisis

By Tegan Kucera | Michigan National Guard | February 17, 2016

FLINT, Mich. - While helping to hand out water to the citizens of Flint, a National Guard Soldier helped save a Flint resident's life.

"This is why I joined the military, to help people," said Spc. Charles Colwell, a medic with the Headquarters Company of the 125th Infantry Battalion attached to Alpha Company from Detroit.

He is one of 65 Soldiers helping distribute water resources after Gov. Rick Snyder activated the National Guard to help with the Flint water emergency.

Because of his actions on Feb. 1, Colwell is being recommended for the Michigan Lifesaving Medal by his squad leader.

While on duty at Fire Station #1 in downtown Flint, Pfc. Zacharry Burrell greeted the resident who was there to return recyclables. Noticing that she was short of breath and struggling for her inhaler, Burrell ascertained the resident was clearly having a medical condition and needed immediate assistance.

"She stood there for a minute and it kind of looked like she was looking for something in her bag and then she bent down and put her hands on her knees and began coughing uncontrollably and I saw she had an inhaler in her hand, ' said Burrell.

Burrell brought Colwell out to the woman, who immediately started assessing her condition. She had been walking with some women to the firehouse. They told Colwell the woman had used her inhaler twice and it was nearly empty. He determined she was also suffering from severe bronchitis, so he called 911.

It wasn't until the next day the other Soldiers realized how much he had done when she came back to the firehouse to thank Colwell for saving her life.

Colwell who has been a medic with the Michigan National Guard for the last two years, is also an emergency medical technician on the civilian side in the city of Detroit.

"I do this so much every day and everyone else is kind of blowing it up," said a humble Colwell, who doesn't understand why the other Soldiers he is working with think he deserves the Michigan Lifesaving Medal.

"I couldn't be more proud of him," said his squad leader, Sgt. Brandon Lewis. "That's why I put him in for the highest award that I could possibly recommend for him for doing that."

Colwell went beyond his normal duties while in Flint and his actions made what could have been a bad situation a positive one.

"If it wasn't for him, one of us might have misjudged the situation and just thought she was sick," said Lewis. "Not only did he immediately seek her out, but he did everything he could to make her comfortable and by the time the EMTs and paramedics got here he already had an assessment to hand over to them so they were a few steps ahead."

The 125th Infantry Battalion includes Soldiers from different companies from around the state who have volunteered to assist the citizens of Flint during his time. They are stationed at water resource sites at the five fire stations, handing out water, water filters and water testing kits.