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Kansas National Guard Soldiers stop to help distressed girl

By Staff Sgt. Dakota Helvie | Kansas Adjutant General’s Department | June 10, 2020

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Driving through rainstorms from Leawood toward Lawrence on Kansas Highway 10, Kansas Army National Guard Spc. Darin McQueen noticed a young girl sitting on a bridge with her feet hanging off the side and immediately told Staff Sgt. Joshua Thompson, Detachment 1, Company C, 2-137th, noncommissioned officer in charge.

“It was very unusual to see someone sitting on the bridge - when it was raining pretty heavily. Meant someone wasn’t doing OK,” said McQueen, a tank loader with Headquarters Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment. “With all the military training we attend, learning to spot indicators, this was just a more obvious one.”

“Specialist McQueen was very adamant about stopping to check on her,” said Sgt. Caleb Grady, Company B, 2-137th tank commander. “His insistence really got us to come together to know that this needed to be addressed.”

Inside the van, the routine for the day – helping package and distribute food in Lawrence – had changed and their training kicked in.

“Seconds after seeing her we decided to turn around. I called our commander and told him we were going to be late returning from our mission,” Thompson said. “Giving him the situation report as we pulled up to the bridge.”

“Every Soldier is a sensor, a reporter, this really showcases that,” said Cadet Anthony Swanson, Company B, 2-137th. “Their response was the epitome of what it means to be a Guardsman.”

Thompson and Grady got out of the van and started to approach her when they noticed she was crying and nudging closer to the edge. Thompson slowly approached, asking her questions while trying to get her attention and keep her calm.

“What’s your name, what are you doing there?” asked Thompson. “She wanted to know why we had stopped when so many before us had driven by and yelled for her to jump.”

Continuing to talk to her, trying to defuse the situation, Thompson walked toward her while Grady went around the edge of the bridge and made his way down the side of the incline.

“I climbed down into the ravine and got under her,” Grady said. “Every time she would look down she would see me instead of what she was planning on doing.”

Cpl. Ethan Payne, Company C, 2-137th, called emergency services while others in the van got out and started to direct traffic to the other lanes to prevent a secondary accident.

Thompson reached out his hand to her and offered to talk with her. He was able to gain leverage and when she accepted his help, picked her up from the edge of the bridge. After picking the young woman up, Thompson carried her to the van and talked with her until the emergency crews arrived.

“I tried to talk to her about things she could relate to once she was in the van,” McQueen said. “Tried to keep her mind off what was bothering her.”

Once the Kansas Highway Patrol and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office arrived, the Soldiers continued to speak with her and promised to deliver her bike to her house. Payne said the one thing people should remember in their darkest times is that people care, no matter what you think, people care.

Emergency Services notified the family of the situation and transported the young woman to receive help. The Guardsmen then delivered her bike to her home.

Capt. Matthew Indermuehle, Company B, 2-137th commander, said being in the Guard is an added responsibility to the community.

“My Soldiers train to be able to handle these situations, by assessing that there was a need, and had the strong moral courage to turn around and do what was right,” Indermuehle said. “They were in the right place at the right time and able to help someone in need.”