FORT STEWART, Ga. - Two lieutenants walk into Popeyes.

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but this time, it was the start of a lucky break for one Soldier.

The restaurant, which has a raised platform along one wall with extra seating that is surrounded by large potted plants, was about half full when they walked in and ordered their food to go.

"I set my food down and pulled out my beret to put my hat on and this Soldier was standing on top of the stairs foaming at the mouth like he had rabies or something," began 1st Lt. Craig Blair, the fire direction officer for 1st Platoon, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "The lieutenant who was with me asked 'Are you alright'' and the kid grabbed his throat."

The Soldier was standing on the top of the stairs, behind one of the potted plants, so 1st Lt. Blair and his friend were the only two in the restaurant who could see him.

"I grabbed his collar and pulled him off the stairs and gave him the Heimlich maneuver," said 1st Lt. Blair, a native of Jonesboro, Tenn. "Every time I would go to force it out he would tense his chest up and I said 'you're going to have to relax so I can do this or it's not going to work'."

After a few more thrusts, the piece of food dislodged from his throat.

Another swig of soda and the Soldier was okay again.

"So then I went on about my lunch," 1st Lt. Blair said with a shrug. "He was choking and you've got to get it out. When I left Popeyes, it wasn't that big of a deal to me, I just kept going on with my day."

Before joining the military, 1st Lt. Blair had been attending college for nursing, where he learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver, but that was the first time he had ever used the skill.

"In your training you do the exercise in steps," said 1st Lt. Blair. "Whereas in real life your heart beats a little faster. You don't have time to think, you just have to do it."

While 1st Lt. Blair will admit his actions might have saved the Soldiers life, he didn't do it for the attention.

"There's no reason to blow it up," he said. "It just all worked out for the best I guess."
Then he laughs and shakes his head.

"When we got back to the battery, 1st Lt. Jeffrey Caslen ran into the office and went 'Hey, we have a hero! First Lieutenant Blair did the Heimlich on a Soldier and got a chicken bone out of his throat!'"

So now 1st Lt. Blair is a reluctant hero, receiving recognition from his battalion commander all the way up to the 3rd Infantry Division commander.

But at the end of the day, he is just glad he could help.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16