West Point staff sergeant rescues children
August 21, 2009
Staff Sgt. James Matthews, information technology specialist for the Information and Education Technology Division at West Point, didn't think he would end up a hero during an intramural softball game July 13, but it turns out he was.
Seven-year-old Brennan and 5-year-old Isabel Dees were picking raspberries in the woods surrounding the softball field at the Family and Moral, Welfare and Recreation H Lot Athletic Complex when they disturbed a nest of wasps.
Suddenly, Matthews heard them yelling and screaming in the woods adjacent to Field #1, nearest to the Shoppette, while he played.
"At first, I thought the kids were just playing around until the yelling turned to full-on screaming," he said. "I sprinted over to the woods, thinking one of the kids may have fallen or gotten some other routine injury.
"When I got a few feet from the trees, I yelled to the kids asking what was wrong," Matthews added.
Wasps were closing in and stinging the children. Matthews continued to run into the woods, forgetting for the moment that he has a history of allergic reactions to bee stings, scooped them into his arms and got them out of the woods.
"After about 10 or 15 minutes, my hand swelled a little and I realized the smart thing to do was to get it checked out," he said. "Luckily, my reaction was minor and I was able to leave Keller Army Community Hospital within an hour with some routine medications."
Matthews said he didn't consider what he did to be anything special.
"I have a daughter, too, and I would hope that if she were ever in that situation that someone would do the same for her," Matthews explained.
Matthews said when the children were yelling, the right thing to do was to run and help them instead of just worrying about himself.
Brennan and Isabel's father, Maj. Rob Dees, a Department of Systems Engineering instructor, was playing softball on Field #3, across from Field #1, and was not aware at the time who aided the children.
"When I came off the field from playing defense, the kids were back at the bleachers by the field I was on," Dees said. "One of the officials gave them ice to put on the stings, and all was well after a few minutes of ice and being distracted by playing with a cute dog."
Dees said he was very thankful that Matthews came to their aid when hearing their distress.
"Based on the circumstances as I have heard them, it sounds as if they could have been stung more times than they were," Dees said. "So I applaud (Matthews') action. Many would have just stood there, and it seems he acted promptly to get them out of danger and placed their needs above his level of risk.
"Not only did he get them away from the bees," he added, "he also provided an example to the kids of someone who is willing to serve others even though there is always risk in doing so."