By T. Anthony BellMay 3, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (May 3, 2012) -- Staff Sgt. José Lozano can't explain the thought process that recently motivated him and others to perform actions that helped someone to continue on with his life.
Lozano, an Ordnance School instructor, was part of a bus monitoring detail with two other Soldiers on the morning of April 18. During the month-long duty, the assigned troops either provide a presence at school bus stops or make vehicle patrols through neighborhoods on the installation at prescribed times. A safety and security measure, many Soldiers see it as a necessary, but unexciting requirement.
"Tell you the truth, it's kind of boring because all you do is kind of drive around to make sure the kids are behaving," said Lozano.
On this particular morning, however, Lozano and fellow Staff Sergeants Tyronda Kelly, an instructor at the Logistics Noncommissioned Officers Academy, Army Logistics University, and Nakia Wallace, a Quartermaster School instructor, were traveling through the neighborhood of Adams Chase located off Battle Drive near the A Avenue gate. The Soldiers, who occasionally encounter an episode or two of misbehavior, didn't come across any unruly children but did come upon a man lying on the bench of bus stop No. 53 located near the intersection of Inchon and Pusan roads.
"He looked kind of out of the ordinary," said Kelly, noting the man showed signs of disorientation. "We stopped and asked him, 'Is everything OK?' He looks up and says, 'Oh, I'm OK. I'm just taking a little break.'"
Not convinced the man was all right, the Soldiers further pressed for reassurance and offered him a ride home. He accepted the offer and began to move toward the vehicle but collapsed in the process. The three quickly exited the vehicle to assist him. Once again, the man insisted he was fine but stumbled again after the Soldiers helped him to his feet, said Kelly.
"That's when I remember him taking a gasp; he was gasping for air," he said.
Wallace thought to seek medical assistance.
"I immediately started dialing 9-1-1," said the mother of three. Wallace began a dialogue with the dispatcher, providing all the information they needed to respond.
In the interim, the man, probably sensing the seriousness of his condition, requested someone call his wife. Wallace tried calling but didn't get an answer. She then used a handheld radio to call the military police dispatch. Additionally, she said she took steps to prevent shock because the man was in PT gear and seemed to be suffering from a heat injury.
"We thought he had over-exerted himself," she recalled.
The situation escalated further when the man stopped responding to questions, looked incoherent and was found to have stopped breathing, said Kelly.
"From that moment, I immediately started doing CPR," said Kelly. Simultaneously, Lozano made sure to keep the victim's airway open.
The three Soldiers had established a casual relationship during the course of the bus monitoring duties that brought them together for the first time. One of the big things they had in common was multiple tours to Southwest Asia. That familiarity, and the fact they were Soldiers trained to the same standard, contributed to a working chemistry.
"We were all doing our own thing together, in unison," said Lozano of how the trio worked as one to render assistance to the victim.
They were far from getting the man beyond the threat to his life, however. The three continued to perform life-saving measures until installation emergency medical technicians arrived. The man's wife and the military police weren't far behind. The EMTs worked on the victim for several additional minutes, using a defibrillator and breathing apparatus as needed, said Lozano.
The man, Chaplain (Col.) James R. White, the installation chaplain, was later rushed to the hospital where it was determined that he had suffered a heart attack. He was released April 23 and is now resting with his Family, said his noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Naomi L. Rankins.
"He will return (to work) in a light-duty status in mid-May until his retirement," she said.
The colonel is in his 30th year of service and was scheduled to participate in a retirement ceremony June 13. It's still on, said Rankins.
"Thanks to those three NCOs, we can give him the retirement ceremony he deserves -- on two feet!" she said.
In retrospect, the Soldiers said that helping to save a life is a most profound experience.
"I'm blessed and feel real good (about what happened)," said Kelly. "All I can say, honestly and truthfully, is that if I was ever in that situation, I would hope that someone would be able to take care of me."
Wallace has a more spiritual assessment of the event. She said she believes that the Almighty placed her and her battle buddies there because He has a plan for the chaplain.
"I think God used us as vessels, and we were there at the right place and right time," she said.
Perhaps the issue of time and place is of more significance to Lozano. He was the driver of the vehicle. With numerous neighborhoods and more than 50 bus stops to cover during his shift, he was personally moved to cover one street twice -- the one where the chaplain lay helpless.
"I don't know why I decided to go around that housing area again," he said. "We could've taken another route to another side of post but ... it seemed like we were kind of meant to go down that way."
Was it fate? Lozano said he believes it was more than that, especially considering that more than once "the life looked like it left" the colonel's eyes during the emergency procedures. There are questions that can't be answered, that are at odds with simple logic, he said.
"That's why I believe something intervened," said Lozano.
So that someone can continue on with his life.