Soldier-Medic Says 'Luck' Puts Him at Accident Scenes to Help
Soldiers are trained to put the welfare of others before themselves; selfless service and integrity ("be willing to do what is right when no one is looking") are two of the seven Army values.
A Soldier from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) recently exhibited those values as well as the Army Warrior Ethos of "never leaving a fallen comrade" in his response to a traffic accident on his way to work. Following the July 16 morning accident on I-95, near Exit 33, Laurel, Md., Sgt. Joshua Huddleston stayed with an injured and distressed motorist.
"I was driving southbound [on I-95] to work when I saw a fully-inflated tire still on the rim bounce over the tree line across the median and hit the side of an SUV," Huddleston explained. "I saw the SUV swerve, the driver regained control [of the vehicle] and pulled over onto the side. I pulled over, ran to the vehicle and noticed the entire driver's side was smashed in."
Huddleston said he found the driver bleeding from her head, a piece of glass in her eye, and with multiple cuts and scratches.
"I grabbed my beret and used it to apply pressure to control the bleeding, and then called 9-1-1 and my chain of command," said the trained combat medic. When the ambulance arrived on the scene, he explained to the emergency medical workers what happened and the care he provided to the victim.
"It was a no-brainer," Huddleston said in explaining why he stopped to help the victim. "I have this knowledge that the Army has given me to make a difference, [so] what kind of person would I be if I kept going when I could have possibly saved someone's life?"
Huddleston, currently a project manager for Emergency Management (EM) at Walter Reed Bethesda and responsible for training, writing instructions and standard operating procedures for the EM department, said this wasn't the first time he rendered aid to an accident victim.
"In 2004, before I joined the Army, I also came upon a wreck the day after I got my EMT-B [emergency medical technician basic level certification]," said the sergeant, who at the time was training to be a firefighter. The native of Mahomet, Ill., was working construction and came upon the accident while driving to a job site in Champaign County, (Ill.).
"I came upon a car in the middle of a field and a police car with its lights flashing," the Soldier continued. "I stopped to see what was going on, and saw a person lying in the field about 30 yards from the car and the officer very alarmed."
Huddleston said it appeared as if the driver had lost control of the vehicle on a curve and was thrown from the car. "I ran to the victim and told the police officer I was a medic."
The new EMT said the driver was severely injured and that the only thing he could do for her was open her airway and put her in the recovery position until EMS [Emergency Medical Services] arrived on the scene. "Unfortunately, she passed away a little after arriving to the hospital," he said.
Two weeks later, Huddleston said his best friend, an Army specialist, called him from Iraq and told him the Army needed medics badly. "It got me thinking what better place to make a difference in the world plus serve my country like my grandfather, so I joined up and was in basic training in less than two months. My birthday, Feb. 11, 2005, was day one of basic training."
In 2006, he deployed with 1/7 Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division to Camp Taji in Iraq as a senior line medic for D troop, where he served until 2008.
In July of the same year, while on convalescent leave in Waco, Texas with a broken ankle, the sergeant said he again came upon a vehicle accident, this one involving two trucks in which one had caught fire. "I pulled out two unconscious passengers who were in the vehicle and provided them care until EMS arrived."
The combat medic said he reenlisted to come to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in October 2008. In December of that year while on leave in Illinois during the holidays, Huddleston said he was awakened by a loud crash the night before New Year's Eve. "I jumped out of bed and looked out the front door and saw a vehicle smashed into a tree. "I put on my shoes and ran [towards the vehicle]." He found the passenger had died, and the driver with shallow breathing and bleeding from the head. "I was able to control the bleeding and keep his airway open until EMS came," he explained.
Huddleston's efforts led to an article about him in The News-Gazette, which serves East Central Illinois. The article was read by his former "grade-school sweetheart," she contacted him via the internet, and they are now married.
"People always tell me I am unlucky," Huddleston said explaining why he seems to be at the scenes of unfortunate vehicle accidents. "I think it's the other way around; I am lucky that I was there at just the right time and right place to help. How lucky is that? For me, there is nothing like saving a life and making a difference in the world."
"When I heard of the good deeds and life-saving support Sgt. Huddleston provided to people that he had never met, I felt that each account was not a mistake," said Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Leathers, program manager for Contingency Resources in the Office of Emergency Management at Walter Reed Bethesda.
"As a young Soldier, he can easily be described as hard charging when tasked to support or lead a project," Leathers said of Huddleston. "Upon his arrival he has been very pro-active with engaging all aspects of Emergency Management. His background is tied to providing medical care and this brings an enhanced approach to our capabilities. This environment has allowed him to expand professionally and the synergy that he's brought to the office has been very contagious."
Article by Bernard S. Little, WRNMMC Public Affairs