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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2011

Army National Guard Soldiers saves lives in, out of uniform

By Staff Sgt. David Bruce Indiana National Guard

EDINBURGH, Ind. - While serving in the military, many service members expect to perform their duties while in uniform and to kick back, relax and not think of work at the end of the day. Army National Guard Sgt. Gerald Dick, assigned to the Medical Detachment at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center here, discovered that he is always on "duty."

Dick, formerly an armor crewman, is now combat medic and has additional training as a practical nurse.

When he left the Army, Dick became a volunteer firefighter. It was during a response to a fire that led to his decision to become a medic.

"I went to the scene of a fire and I couldn't help," he said. "There was nothing I could do to help, other than fight the fire."

So Dick came back into the service and joined the Army Reserve and went to military training to be a healthcare specialist. He said he did so well during the course that his instructors submitted paperwork for him to go to take on a licensed practical nurse program.

He earned his certification in the LPN program.

While not everybody has the specialized medical training that Dick possesses, he believes everyone should have basic medical skills.

"Everybody should have some medical training," Dick said. "You never know when these skills are going to be needed."

And Dick knows this from experience as he has twice stopped for motor vehicle accidents he witnessed earlier this year and rendered aid to the injured motorists.

"The first time I was up in Ohio for my brother's funeral," he said. "I was on my way to the funeral home and a van turned in front of a large flatbed truck. I stopped and did assessments on the drivers. In addition to the injuries sustained by one of the drivers, it turned out that his pacemaker was damaged during the accident."

Dick immobilized the cervical spine on the van driver and once state police and emergency medical service arrived the van driver was evacuated by air ambulance.

And then there was that second incident that Dick just happened to, again, be in the right place at the right time.

"It was a Friday, I was leaving for Louisville and Ft. Knox," he explained. "I witnessed a small two-door vehicle caravan [bounce] off a concrete divider hit a van and another concrete divider on a bridge.

"I ended up stopping and grabbed my [advanced life support] bag from my vehicle and ran back," Dick said. "I put a [cervical collar] on the girl and started an assessment, a quick set of vitals. From then, until someone called 911 and [emergency medical services] showed up, spoke with her, and tried to keep her conscious.

The patient did lose consciousness a couple times, so he had to put his skills into action once more to keep her awake by talking to her and rubbing her hand.

The primary concern with motor vehicle accidents is spinal injury.

Dick said most people have an instinct to immediately get out of their vehicles after an accident if they can. In the case of the young lady, there was so much vehicular damage that it pushed the front end so far that there were just a few inches from the steering wheel to the seat because of the impact.

Fortunately, Dick had medical equipment with him and was even able to stabilize one victim's neck with a collar.

And while combat medic are always prepared for what their duties require of them in combat and in training, Dick said he always thought he'd put his medical expertise to use while on duty.

"I always thought it would be in uniform on a deployment with the classic shouts for a medic or doctor," he said. "I never imagined [it would happen while] riding down a country road or the expressway, especially to see the accidents happen."

Despite his actions, he doesn't consider himself a hero.

"A lot of people just drove by, in both cases, and just watched and stared," he said. "I was in the right place at the right time. I just did what a Soldier should do. I stopped and helped."

With the deployments and wars of the last 10 years, it is sometimes easy to forget that the simplest way to serve the people of this country can be stopping to render aid to those that need.