For Saving a Woman’s Life, 6 Heroic Air National Guardsmen Receive Meritorious Service Medal

Six members of the Air National Guard received Meritorious Service Medals last week for their heroic efforts to save a woman’s life on June 4th at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.

The Meritorious Service Medal was established in 1969. It recognizes individuals for their meritorious noncombatant service to the United States. Their actions went above their line of duty. Their instinctive actions directly assisted in the saving of a person’s life.

Maj. Telisha Johnson, Capt. Lauren Sutherland, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Nicholas, Staff Sgt. Emanuel Morales, Staff Sgt. Jacen Vaughan and Airman 1st Class Santiago Martinez Jr. were headed to their next post when they were flagged down.

The Airmen were posted at the Lincoln Memorial to support the civil unrest mission when they heard a cry for help.

“As we were walking to our next post, a civilian waved us down, asking for help. Hearing the urgency in their voice, we ran down the stairs and arrived on scene, finding a female unconscious lying face down on the ground. We took immediate action, braced her neck and rolled her over so we could assess her situation.” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Nicholas, crew chief with the 113th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (113th AMXS).

“The patient took a gasp of air, and her pulse started to weaken,” said Vaughan. “I told a person to get an AED (automated external defibrillator) from Park Police and told Morales to begin CPR.”

Morales, had only performed CPR in training, jumped right into action and began chest compressions on the woman.

“It was my first time doing CPR on a real person. My training kicked in, so we were able to assist the civilians in doing CPR,” said Morales.

With the assistance of two civilians, Morales and Vaughan continued CPR and they rotated out as they got tired. While the two Airmen performed lifesaving measures, Nicholas grabbed the patient’s phone and dialed the last person she had called.

“The last person she called was her husband,” said Nicholas, who informed him of the situation. “I asked him does she have any allergies or medical conditions we need to know about.”

During the initial response, Nicholas had radioed for any National Guard medical team in the area to respond to the situation. Three members from the 113th Medical Group arrived within minutes.

“When we arrived on scene, we were being flagged down by D.C. Guard members, and noticed a military police officer running with an AED,” said Maj. Telisha Johnson, a nurse for the 113th Medical Group. “We got to the scene and found the patient on the ground unresponsive, and CPR was already started.”

Upon arrival at the scene, Johnson stopped the CPR and assessed the patient. She checked the patient’s pulse and confirmed she was not breathing. Johnson started chest compressions again while her team got the AED out of the bag and hooked up.

“We analyzed the AED, and she did end up needing to be shocked a couple of times. We rotated out technician and nurse for compressions, while others were giving respirations through the pocket mask,” said Johnson.

The Airmen performed CPR on the patient for eight minutes before the U.S. Park Police medical evacuation team arrived and took over. They continued CPR while the woman was loaded on the stretcher. “I loaded up with them [in the helicopter] and continued doing compressions trying to save the patient,” said Johnson.

Within 30 to 40 seconds in the air, the patient was breathing. When the helicopter arrived at the hospital, the patient was finally breathing on her own.

Nicholas, who had been in communication with the patient’s husband throughout the ordeal, called him once the helicopter departed for the hospital.

“I called him, and he did not answer but called me back. He let me know that she was stable and doing OK and that he really wanted to thank our men for the work we did, jumping in to save her,” said Nicholas.

Johnson expressed her gratitude for the team of Airmen who responded to the situation. “Without them, I don’t know what would have happened. We made a save today.”

During the ceremony at the Pentagon, the Airmen were also recognized by Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy for their actions while supporting an Army operation.

“Today we gather to celebrate the life-saving efforts of six members of the D.C. Air National Guard. Because of their swift response, an unconscious and injured civilian ultimately returned to their family. Their teamwork is an example of the Air Force value of service-before-self that permeates the Department of the Air Force,” said Barrett.

Meritorious Service Medals are arranged before being awarded to airmen during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., Aug. 19, 2020. The airmen provided emergency first aid to an unconscious woman during Civilian Disturbance Response in Washington, D.C., June 4, 2020. The awardees are: Maj. Telisha Johnson, Capt. Lauren Sutherland, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Nicholas, Staff Sgt. Emanuel Morales, Staff Sgt. Jacen Vaughan and Airman 1st Class Santiago Martinez, who attended via video conference. (U.S. Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

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