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Angels of the Battlefield Honor Medical Personnel Who Went Above Call of Duty

Image of Angels of the Battlefield Honor Medical Personnel Who Went Above Call of Duty. Six medical professionals representing the armed services and the Defense Health Agency were recognized by the Armed Services-YMCA at their 27th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards November 17, 2023. (photo: Robert Hammer/MHS Communications)

Six medical professionals from across the armed services recently earned honors as Angels of the Battlefield, a title bestowed upon them by the Armed Services-YMCA in honor of military medical personnel and first responders for their life-saving medical treatment and trauma care of service members, partner forces, and civilians at home and abroad.

The honorees represent the branches of the U.S. Armed Services and the Defense Health Agency and were selected for their “selfless courage and unwavering sacrifice while savings lives on the front lines overseas or during emergency situations here at home,” according to the AS-YMCA.

The awards were presented at the 17th Annual Angels of the Battlefield gala Nov. 16.

Tad Stines, Defense Health Agency

Stines, a paramedic with the 412th Healthcare Operations Squadron, Edwards Air Force Base, California, became the second DHA civilian employee to receive the award, a new category established in 2022. 

Angels of the Battlefield Honor Medical Personnel Who Went Above Call of DutyTad Stines, a paramedic with the 412th Healthcare Operations Squadron, Edwards Air Force Base, becomes the second Defense Health Agency civilian employee to receive the Angels of the Battlefield award from the Armed Services YMCA. (Courtesy photo)

He was recognized for his selfless actions during a fire at a neighbor’s house in Palmdale, California.

“I am honored to be receiving this recognition, especially in light of the company this puts one in,” said Stines. “Past recipients, present honorees and most of all the active duty military members that put their lives on hold repeatedly performing acts much more harrowing and consequential than I. This was unexpected and I am grateful, but I was just doing what was right.”

He has been a paramedic for 23 years and at Edwards AFB since 2007.

“I am so proud of him,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Norman West, chief of staff for the DHA. “It's easy to do your job, but to knowingly put yourself in danger when you’re not on duty, by running into a burning building, that’s superb. A very heroic effort from an individual that didn't have to put himself in harm's way.”

On May 25th, 2022, Stines was informed that his neighbor’s house was on fire by his daughter.

He proceeded to call 911 while ensuring that neighboring occupants were evacuated from their homes. Knowing that one of the occupants was wheel chaired bound, he went to check on him.

“I could not approach from the front as it was too hot,” he said. “I climbed several block walls to reach the back of the house. Three people live there, one of them being an adult son who is in a wheelchair.”

As he approached the back door, he saw that the homeowner was still in the house. Without regard for his own safety, he entered the home, rescued the occupant, and secured him in a safe location until the fire department and paramedics arrived.

The homeowner made a full recovery.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ta’Quesha Abson

Abson, a licensed practical nurse at Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, was honored for saving the life of a veteran who attempted to die by suicide.

Abson witnessed someone jump from an overpass. She stopped her car on the side of the road and rushed to the victim. After cutting a rope that was around his neck, she used the skills she learned as a combat medic and a nurse to help save his life.

With the assistance of another nurse, she began to triage the patient to identify any potential life-threatening injuries.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Place, chief of staff, Office of the Surgeon General and U.S. Army Medical Command said, “She demonstrated heroism in the face of adversity by providing life-saving aid to a veteran following a suicide attempt. Her calm and caring demeanor allowed the victim to remain still and not further injure himself. Her immediate actions and selfless service exemplify what our combat medics do every day across the globe and often in extraordinary circumstances but also in their daily experiences such as this staff sergeant.”

“I'll share this story for upcoming soldiers, nurses, medics, and anyone else that is in the medical field to let them know that the training that we receive actually does work,” Abson said. “And it may not be actually in combat, but you may need it just walking out your front door.”

U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Michael Schuster

Representing the Marine Corps, Schuster, a hospital corpsman at Camp Lejeune, Marine Special Operations Team, was deployed to Somalia in support of Operation OCTAVE QUARTZ. During this deployment, he and his small contingent of Marine special operations forces were assigned to a foreign internal defense mission in East Africa.

“He is an independent duty Corpsman, that's the highest level of qualification we place on our enlisted medical providers and it's everything from combat recessive care to trauma and triage,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregg Olson, director, Marine Corps staff. “He's also trained in medical surgery, so he can work as part of a surgical team, and that all came to fruition in the spring of 2023.”

During a long-range tactical ground movement, a vehicle carrying three Marine special operators struck an explosive device. Without hesitation, Schuster and a team member triaged and treated passengers before loading them into another vehicle. Amidst the ongoing aggression and combat, he continued to provide medical care to the wounded.

His actions are noteworthy, given that he was without sleep during 36 hours of continuous combat operations.

“I just want to thank Lt. Gen Olson, the Armed Services-YMCA … and my wife for allowing me to be here today,” said Schuster. “I also want to thank my parents for always showing me what right looked like growing up.”

U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class Jonah Lewis

Lewis, a senior aviation medical technician with Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit at Fallon, Nevada, quickly jumped into action during a firearm accident.

“Petty Officer Lewis distinguished himself by displaying extraordinary heroism in performing a life-saving action,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Buzzetti, director, Medical Service Corps; deputy chief of staff, Reserve Component; director, Navy medicine operational design.

On July 1, 2023, Lewis was at a friend’s house in northern California, when he heard a small explosion. His friend had been firing a 50-caliber Kentucky Long Rifle when it exploded, causing shrapnel to enter his left arm and the right side of his face.

Due to heavy blood loss and with emergency personnel being 20 minutes out, he immediately applied a tourniquet to the wound. Lewis kept his friend calm while assessing the scene and moving him to a shady area.

“He is my best friend,” said Lewis. “It could have been anybody .... being a corpsman, it's what we do.”

Once the EMTs arrived, he and other emergency personnel were able to get his friend stabilized and moved to a hospital. Lewis remained there with his friend until he was discharged and remained with him for a few days while he recovered, helping him with daily tasks, changing bandages and caring for his wounds.

“Today across the globe our hospital corpsmen directly support the operational readiness of the naval force by ensuring America's war fighters are medically ready to fight,” said Buzzetti. “They are responsible for increasing the survivability and lethality of the Navy and Marine corps most valuable weapon system—our people.”

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Czarina Anne Herrera

Herrera, noncommissioned officer in charge of the operational medicine clinic at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, witnessed a major motor vehicle accident while off duty.

Her first responder instincts kicked in and she provided crucial care to an injured driver. While waiting for emergency personnel to arrive on scene, she extricated and stabilized the victim, then provided eight full rounds of basic life support protocols. Her medical skills proved invaluable in delivering automatic external defibrillator therapy and instructing an off-duty civilian registered nurse in proper care techniques.

“Her parents came over from the Philippines when she was the age of 13, and her dad wanted to join the Navy, but he was unable to meet that dream,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Janine Ryder, commander, Air Force Medical Agency and chief, Air Force Nurse Corps. “Her mom was a nurse, and she knew she wanted to care for patients.”

Herrara said, “I just want to say thank you to all the sponsors for the honor and for honoring our military members. Thank you to my leadership for nominating me for this recognition and for all the amazing opportunities they have given me.”

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Daniel Wilson

Wilson, an aviation survival technician at Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was recognized for his actions in the aftermath of a shootout that wounded three Customs and Border Protection marine agents.

“It's dangerous work we do every day and I thank you for what you do,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Dana Thomas, director of health, safety and work life. “It's an honor for me to be able to recognize your heroism and to serve the U.S. Coast Guard with you.”

He was on his day off when he stopped by the air base. He overheard the call come in, and without hesitation, he helped the rescue personnel on call ready medical supplies and trauma kits. He then donned his flight gear and joined the medical call.

While in flight, they received information that the three agents were inspecting a fishing vehicle when one of the mariners pulled out a gun and shot all three agents at close range to the face, head, and chest. At a high risk to themselves due to the heavy seas, they were lowered down to the bow of the vessel and began to triage the agents.

Once bleeding was under control, he and his teammate evacuated the agents by hoisting them up to an ambulatory helicopter. He stayed on the vessel until a second helicopter arrived.

“Although this is an individual award, it feels to me like it was a team effort,” said Wilson.

“I am a rescue swimmer or an aviation survival technician. There's only about 300 of us in the Coast Guard, so we feel kind of special. They call us the tip of the spear, but it's the people behind us that keep us sharp.”

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