FORT SILL, Okla. -- A quiet night quickly turned into a dramatic, life or death situation as a Soldier from the 75th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla., responded to the cries of help that followed the familiar sound of gunfire.
On the night of Jan. 25, 2020, Spc. Matthew Attaway, a trained combat medic assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, along with his wife Hailey, were watching a movie in the comfort of their apartment when suddenly gunfire rang out and screams followed.
Attaway, who has always had an impulse to help those in need, found himself quickly running upstairs to grab his medical bag and running toward the gunfire just outside his front door.
"My husband has always been the kind of person to drop what he's doing to help those in need," said Hailey. "When we heard the gunfire, I remember telling him to stay inside. But I knew he wouldn't, he isn't one to leave someone in need helpless."
As Attaway ran toward the cries for help, he stayed alert and monitored his surroundings in case the shooter returned.
Upon arriving on the scene, Attaway saw a man laying on the concrete walkway in a pool of blood with an officer from the Lawton Police Department rendering aid.
"I ran up to the officer and let him know who I was," said Attaway. "I told him I was a medic and wanted to help. He said he could use it, so I quickly assessed the victim and saw he had a gunshot wound to his chest and thigh. Without really thinking, I knew exactly what I needed to do."
Attaway communicated with the victim as he exposed the wound and searched for an exit wound.
"We're trained in the Army that if a Soldier, or anyone, sustains a gunshot wound, look for an exit wound," said Attaway. "If you can't find one, the bullet may still be in. If you can find one, then the bullet has exited and now there are two holes that need to be sealed."
As a trained combat medic, Attaway has extensive knowledge of gunshot wounds, hemorrhaging and the symptoms that often follow a traumatic situation. Using this training, Attaway made sure that as he applied the chest seals, he also took the proper steps to prevent the victim from developing tension pneumothorax or a collapsed lung.
"Once I applied the chest seals, I then moved to the gunshot wound on his thigh," Attaway said. "I asked the officer if he had identified the point of entry on the thigh. When he said that he hadn't, I cut a portion of the victim's pants and exposed where the gunshot was."
Attaway quickly reapplied a tourniquet on the victim's leg preventing further bleeding while continuing to comfort him until medical personnel arrived.
Once paramedics arrived, Attaway informed them of what he had done to the victim in order to prevent further bleeding.
"I've always heard him talk about the training he has done and experiences he's had," said Hailey. "Every time we watch a movie I hear the 'oh, that's wrong' or 'you have to apply pressure.' But seeing it all in front of me, outside of a television screen, and it being my husband trying to save someone's life, it was so surreal. I was still trying to take in the whole situation while he was covered in blood. I was so proud of him and glad he didn't listen to me to stay in the house."
Throughout the stressful situation, Attaway was able to maintain a calm composure and execute sound judgment, he credits this to his upbringing and his time in the Marine Corps.
"I can't pinpoint what happened, or what ultimately led to my ability to remain calm even when my heart is racing, but I have a feeling the Marine Corps and my military training played a part in it,"
said Attaway. "I served in the Marines for over five years and enlisted in the Army shortly after. The training we do at [2-20th FAR] to stay proficient as a combat medic is intense."
Usually, Attaway's training consists of a simulated deployed environment and on the battlefield.
"When we train, we usually have to assess a simulated casualty and prevent hemorrhaging while rifles are fired and people are yelling -- it's pretty stressful. But when you train as we do, it becomes almost second nature. I didn't expect to have to use that training at home, but I am glad that I knew how to and was able to," he said.
Attaway has completed Combat Medical Specialist Advanced Individual Training and is trained to treat and care for a variety of life-threatening combat-related injuries.
Whether at home or deployed, Attaway showed that whenever needed, Soldiers of the Diamond Brigade stand trained and ready to answer the call, even when those calls come from outside our own front door.
Attaway is currently assigned to the Fort Sill Artillery Half-Section at Fort Sill, carrying on the traditions of the U.S. Army Field Artillery Corps.