National Guard is full of fascinating jobs. There are jobs for
mechanics, who are good with their hands. There are jobs for
computer wizards, who enjoy plenty of technical time. There are even
jobs for those who love cooking. But the main job of any Guardsmen
is to protect others right around home.
In recent months
there have been several real world situations when Mississippi
Guardsmen were the first to respond - when their quick thinking and
military training was key to saving lives.
Such skills came
in handy in August when floods rushed over parts of Louisiana.
Staff Sgt. Josh Braley and his family were evacuated to high
ground in Denham Springs, La. Braley could have stopped there and
remained with his family, but he didn't. He joined the
search-and-rescue efforts for dozens of civilians in the area.
“He and others began evacuating folks to a nearby elementary
school that was the only high ground in the area. Once the school
began to fill up with evacuees, Staff Sgt. Braley, through his
leadership and clear thinking, began to take control of the
situation,” said Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Newman, the first sergeant of
Headquarters Company, 177th Armored Brigade, who had relatives
rescued by Braley.
Braley took control by forming groups of
people to prepare food using the resources on hand, said Newman.
“He organized groups of people to boil water, consolidate, cook
and ration what little food was available at the school cafeteria,”
he said. “He created a makeshift shower for evacuees and provided
The Louisiana National Guard sent a convoy to the
school. When they arrived, Braley immediately updated them on the
current conditions and had the severely injured civilians evacuated,
according to Newman.
This remarkable rescue effort is made
more memorable because prior to the arrival of the convoy, Braley
did this without the support of the local authorities.
the area was not a designated shelter area, the local authorities
were not bringing in supplies,” Newman said. “They couldn't get to
him. This makeshift shelter was the only high ground in the area and
was surrounded by raging floodwaters. At times, the shelter reached
numbers of up to 300. Due to the extreme danger of deep rush
currents, Braley didn't allow evacuees to leave while it was
Newman met Braley a day later and coordinated a
potable water drop-off location when the floodwater waned.
“As the days move on, I continued to receive more details of the
heroic actions of Braley during the disaster,” said Newman. “His
actions inspired all around him and saved the lives of countless
Another tale of a Guardsmen acting heroically began
September 6, around 8:15 a.m., when Chief Warrant Officer Cecil
Crawford took immediate action by providing lifesaving medical aid
to the victim of a motor vehicle in Shannon, Miss., outside his
While Crawford walked up his driveway to retrieve his
garbage can, a speeding midsize vehicle carrying five passengers
collided with a Lee County sanitation truck, pinning one of the
sanitation workers between the two vehicles, said Crawford.
“I saw that the garbage men had just picked up, so I was headed out
to get the garbage can and bring it back to the house,” he said. “I
noticed that a car was coming up pretty fast and I thought to
myself, ‘I don't think I would be driving that fast on this road.' I
looked forward to see if any vehicles were approaching from the
other direction. By the time I looked back, they'd struck the back
of the garbage truck and one of the men on the back had been hit and
Crawford called 911. However, he called while
heading to the end of the driveway to help out in the way he'd be
Crawford used the belt of the other sanitation
worker as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of the severed leg of
the injured sanitation worker. He also used his own 2005 Chevrolet
2500 HD truck to separate the vehicles involved in order to allow
further medical attention to the victim, who was then airlifted to
North Mississippi Medical Center.
“My wife and I went to
visit him and he was in good spirits,” said Crawford. “He was very
thankful. I was just glad to be able to contact him and see him.”
For the courage shown by Crawford, he was awarded a Letter
of Commendation by Lee County Sherriff Jim H. Johnson.
roads can be a very dangerous place. It's even worse when it turns
dark outside, reducing visibility. Even still, in the midst of
darkness, there is light.
On Halloween evening on Highway 80
in Chunky, Miss., that light was provided by Maj. Andrew Birmingham,
commander of Company G, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, and
Staff Sgt. Justin T. Cox, standardization instructor for the same
Around 7:50 p.m., Birmingham and Cox were going on an
afternoon hunt with an old friend, Rusty Kastla, a retired chief
warrant officer. While they were loading up to leave, they heard a
Then they heard the screams.
slammed into the back of a small utility trailer carrying 10 people.
“I looked at Staff Sgt. Cox and asked him if he had his bag. He
said he did and we both jumped in our vehicles and headed to the
scene, which was right in front the Mr. Kastla's land,” said
Birmingham. “We were the first ones there and Cox immediately
started triage and treatment on multiple victims.”
Cox is a
full-time emergency room nurse at University Medical Center and a
flight medic in his unit, said Birmingham.
“I took my lead
from him. We were working on two children in the middle of the
highway when the volunteer fire department arrived. Cox briefed them
on the injuries and priorities while still working on one of the
children,” said Birmingham.
Once the ambulances arrived, Cox
filled them in as well and asked for flashlights and blankets.
Cox worked on six of the 13 victims involved in the crash. Three
victims did not survive the accident.
“Two were dead when we
arrived,” Birmingham said. “The third victim died while en route to
the [pickup zone for the airlift]. That little girl was the worst
injury that Cox had been working on. He was the primary first
responder working on her for the first 10 minutes after the crash.
He cleared an airway for her, packed her wounds, and assisted the
paramedics on the scene.”
Even though Birmingham was present
and assisting, Cox was the real hero, the unit commander said.
“I highly recommend that Cox be awarded the Soldier's Medal. I
have no doubt that if not for his quick action, calm under pressure,
and skill, more would have died.”
The most recent heroic act
also occurred on the road.
And in the water.
Class Josh Burns, of Ponchatoula, La., and his wife were driving
from Ponchatoula when traffic stopped October 21, 2016.
wife and I were headed out of Louisiana, southbound, and saw traffic
northbound,” he said. “I looked over to see what the commotion was
and I noticed there was a dump truck in the water.”
his military instinct kicked in, he also noticed there was a driver
in the water. The driver's family was still inside of the immersed
“I was getting ready to jump when I saw the man pop
up out of the water,” he said. “He yelled that his family was in the
Burns jumped off of the bridge and swam to the site,
he said. He asked the man how he had gotten out, but the man
“The cab was all the way submerged and
there was only a little of the trailer out of the water. I dived
down to find the door. I couldn't see because of the muddy water,”
Just then, a fellow Good Samaritan lowered a crowbar
down using an extension cord, he said. He was able to break a
window, but it was too small to reach in. However, all hope was not
“When I reached into the window on the sleeper, someone
grabbed back,” Burns said. “I used a sledgehammer and broke the
passenger window. I pushed the rest of the glass with my hand and
pulled the lady out. Luckily, she was holding her daughter.”
Burns swam the child to the shore first, he said. Afterwards, he
brought life jackets for the man and woman to swim to safety, where
the ambulance came to get them. Burns dried off and went on his way.
“I did miss my (Veterans Administration) appointment,” Burns
laughed, "but in my opinion I was just doing the right thing at the
Duty. Personal Courage. Selfless service. Three
of the Army values are echoed throughout each of these heroic
“Any of my brothers would've done the same thing.
Everything worked out for a reason,” Burns said.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Connie Jones
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