Drive home becomes rescue mission
October 8, 2010
By Rich Bartell
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - For Spc. Roger E. Dennen Jr., 22, a simple drive home to have lunch with his fiancAfA evolved into a life-saving event.
Dennen, a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, Joint Base Lewis-McChord was on his way home on Aug. 26 when he spotted a car that had collided with a tree near the corner of 176th and Pacific Avenue, in Tacoma.
In the tradition of a Good Samaritan and a good Soldier trained in first aid, he stopped to help.
He quickly assessed the situation and took charge of the accident scene. He instructed a truck driver to direct traffic around the accident. Dennen then began administering first aid to the unconscious driver.
"The first thing I did was announce that I was a medic," Dennen said. "The victim was slumped over the steering wheel and a woman was kneeling beside her. I knew from my first aid training that we had to clear the airway immediately."
With the assistance of bystanders, Dennen took the victim's pulse and noted she wasn't breathing.
He instructed a bystander to help him stabilize the victim's neck. Using his hand, he cleared her airway and began CPR.
"We didn't move her from the driver's seat as she might have had a back injury," he said. "I gave her five chest compressions and she
began breathing. I knew that was enough to get the blood flowing back to her brain."
A few seconds later, the victim again stopped breathing and Dennen went back to work. In all, he performed CPR three times over a 20 minute period.
"Her pulse stopped twice and I just continued the chest compressions until she was breathing on her own," Dennen said.
When an aid car arrived, Dennen briefed the attending emergency medical services team and assisted them in getting the victim on a flat board and ready for transport.
Dennen is a former 92-R, parachute packer, whose unit disbanded. As a result, he works as a driver in the garrison transportation section. He's a man respected by his peers and supervisors. He's also a modest man who is not afraid to take charge in an emergency.
"I'm not a hero," Dennen insisted. "It was second nature for me. I really was just doing my job."
Previously, Dennen had rendered first aid to a friend who lost an arm in an accident and stitched up a few others when medical aid wasn't available.
Sergeant Tommy Holt, Dennen's squad leader, said Dennen's actions were consistent with his qualities as a Soldier.
"Dennen is a great Soldier," Holt said. "I'd take a bullet for him and stand by him in a foxhole.
"It didn't surprise me that he saved that woman's life," Holt said. "He'd jump in and give the shirt off his back if someone needed it. He's that kind of man. Rating him as a Soldier, on a scale of one to 10, I'd give Dennen an 11."
For his quick thinking and actions, Dennen received an Army Commendation Medal.
In a stroke of irony, Dennen was in a car wreck more than two years ago which has left him with a permanent back injury. At the end of his enlistment, he's leaving the Army to be trained as a surgical technician in his home state of Ohio.
This article appeared in Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.