By Spc. Nathan GoodallAugust 5, 2013
LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Two children were locked in a car at a shopping center parking lot with the windows cracked about an inch on a hot summer day July 1. One child was crying and the other appeared dazed. Both were sweating profusely and at risk of heat injury.
Several people passed by the car, some shaking their heads at the sight, but all of them continued on their way. A soldier in uniform became curious when he noticed people peering into the vehicle and went to see what everyone was looking at.
Spc. Evan C. Waddy, a Fayetteville, Ga., native, and fire directions control specialist with 1st Battalion (HIMARS), 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, decided not to ignore the situation and stayed by the car out of concern for the children.
Waddy didn't need a thermometer to know it was a hot day, but he checked the weather report on his smart phone and confirmed it was more than 80 degrees outside. He knew that the temperature was even higher inside the unventilated vehicle.
"I wasn't going to let them sit in that car. It was one of those moments you can't ignore," Waddy said.
He decided to wait for the owner of the car to come back. He considered that the parents might not know it is illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle, and figured he would inform them when they returned.
After approximately 10 minutes passed, Waddy realized the situation could become dangerous. As a soldier, he's trained to spot and treat the initial stages of heat exhaustion. As a father, he's made himself aware of how to protect his own daughter from hazards like heat injury.
He didn't know if it was an emergency, but he knew it could turn into one.
Waddy called the local police, and the officer he talked with said a squad car was on the way to his location. The officer told him he could leave the scene, but Waddy was uncomfortable leaving the children alone in an unsafe situation. He stayed until the police arrived.
As he was leaving, what appeared to be the father of the children returned to the car. Waddy was relieved to see the children exit the vehicle and felt better knowing the proper authorities were handling the situation.
He said there are a number of reasons he got involved, but initially felt obligated because of the uniform he wears.
"It's integrity: it's the Army values. I felt like it was my duty," he said.
When Waddy joined the Army, he took an oath to protect and serve the American people just as every soldier does. He noted that doesn't just mean fighting on a battlefield, but that he is obligated to protect people whenever he can.
He said a lot of his family members have served in the armed forces, and that he was raised to appreciate Army values, like integrity, duty and personal courage, early on in his life. Because of that, he doesn't consider his actions to be anything special. To him, it was just the right thing to do.
"It was just what I was raised to believe," Waddy said. "If you see somebody in need, you help them out."