Courage in the face of fire
October 31, 2011
Sgt. Daniel Clemens was waiting in line at a local gas station, getting himself an energy drink, when he heard a gunshot.
"I was honestly thinking that if the [shooter] saw me, I would be the first target since I was in uniform, so I figured I would go see if anyone had been shot, to see what I could do to help," he said.
Clemens is an Army Reserve civil affairs sergeant with the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade in Homewood, Ill. He was preparing for his monthly battle assembly when he found himself inside the crime scene after a shooting with a large caliber handgun in Minooka, Ill.
He also made a choice that would change his life and save another.
Not only did Clemens risk his life by running toward the gunfire, but also in so doing put, himself in a situation to apply the training he learned in the Army to save the victim's life.
"I served six and a half years on active duty as an infantryman, and had practiced life-saving skills a thousand times," Clemens said, who left active duty to join the 308th in 2009 as a Reserve Soldier.
"We're very proud of him and I think he's a model for the other Soldiers and citizens as well," said 1st Sgt. Gregory Scott, 308th first sergeant.
"I could see a pool of blood below the victim's upper leg. I quickly checked for an entrance and exit wound," Clemens said. "Since I couldn't find an exit wound, I started treating the heavy bleeding. I knew that pressure alone wasn't going to keep her alive. At this point, a trucker came up to help me. I asked him for his belt and I applied a makeshift tourniquet to her leg,"
Gerard Watkins, occupational health and safety specialist for the 308th, was a key advocate in pushing for the Army's Safety Guardian Award after he heard what Clemens had done.
"I felt that his actions were not only very heroic, but also showcase the quality of noncommissioned officers we have in the Army," Watkins said.
Clemens received the Army's Safety Guardian Award. He is the first Soldier in the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), and the Army Reserve, to receive one.
Part of the citation, which accompanied the award reads: "Through extraordinary actions, (he) responded to a shooting incident involving a woman who may have bled to death if not for his assistance."
In addition, the Minooka Fire Chief, Al Yancey, and his Lieutenant, Shift Commander Arnold Nolan, who had been at the scene, commended his actions.
Because the shooters whereabouts were unknown, the area could not be cleared by local law enforcement, which in turn meant first responders couldn't enter the scene. It was during this critical time Clemens was in action.
"With quick action and disregard for his safety, Clemens remained with the victim, applying direct pressure and remained there holding direct pressure to the victims wound until fire department personnel arrived on scene and relived him," Yancey said in a written statement.
Clemens said he is honored to receive the award, but to him that's not the real reward.
"I found out a month later, after the incident, she made a full recovery from the shooting. That's all that matters to me, is that she's OK," he said.
But perhaps the greater reward goes to his parents.
"We feel, the Army Reserve, has also helped Daniel to be a better person, we are very proud of the young man he has become; and we are so proud he was able to help the victim," said his mother, Susan Clemens.