On 16 December, what started out as a normal Wednesday afternoon for some, ended with a multi vehicle accident and an overturned school bus just outside the Enterprise gate near Fort Rucker, Al. As military personnel were driving home that day, several witnessed the accident unfold and took immediate action.
U.S. Army Spc. Nikkimark Suelo, Medical Laboratory Specialist, a 68K at Lyster Army Health Clinic had just left work after finishing a day of combat lifesaver course training. The father of two came across the accident and immediately saw people rushing to assist. He immediately feared for the safety of those involved as he saw the school bus laying on its side. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. You immediately worry.” Without hesitation, Suelo pulled over and rushed directly to the bus to assist the others offering aid to the victims. “Your instinct just kicks in, you don’t even think. You run and help.” Suelo stated.
Suelo wasn’t alone as other military Service Members and civilians were stopping to help. One of those first on the scene was Staff Sgt. Crystal Harris, NCOIC Primary Care Clinic, a 68W at Lyster.
Harris witnessed the accident as it happened. “I saw the bus flipping. It was scary not knowing how badly people were injured. Seeing the school bus on its side and leaking fluids, your worst fears emerge.” She immediately called 911 and began assessing the victims.
When asked what went through her mind as the accident unfolded before her. “You see everything happening and you just know to react. People could have been injured. I had a duty to assist.” Harris remarked she was just one of many that felt the need to help, “I was just another set of helping hands to assist the situation.”
As Suelo and others were administering aid to the bus driver they observed he “was more concerned about his student than his injuries. Even though he appeared to be in shock, his priority was the health of the others involved in the accident,” remarked Suelo.
After ensuring the bus driver was stabilized, Suelo moved on to assist two others who were rendering aid to an injured woman.
When asked about what happened, both Soldiers didn’t hesitate to remark, they didn’t do anything extraordinary. They did what any caring citizen would do. “You see an accident, you stop and help.” Suelo and Harris continued to express their hope that all the persons involved heal quickly and have a happy holiday with family.
Cpt. Catherine Munro, Medical Company Commander at Lyster remarked, “Both Soldiers displayed outstanding military bearing and utilized their military training outside of the training arena. While each served a different role during this incident, when you ask either of them why they did it, their response is “I didn’t do anything anyone else wouldn’t do”. This shows the amount of selfless service these Soldiers portray and the unending dedication to do what’s right. These Soldiers exude the Army values and live to the highest standard we can expect. We are proud to claim these Soldiers as part of Lyster Army Health Clinic and the Army is fortunate to have them on their team.”
The quick actions of all the personnel who stopped to assist resulted in the stabilization of the injured until local emergency services arrived on scene.
Lt. Col. Danielle Rodondi, Lyster Commander concluded, “We are extremely proud of all the unsung heroes who stopped to render assistance. With all the stress and worry so many are facing during this pandemic, our strength for compassion and selfless service never stops. I am honored to see our team always stepping up to lead from the front. Army medicine doesn’t stop at our clinic doors. We will always be there when needed.”