MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Thanksgiving is a holiday often reserved for gathering around the table for food and spending quality time with family and friends.
For Staff Sgt. Brandon Cruz, an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 6th Medical Operations Squadron, it was a time to give thanks for being in the right place, at the right time.
On November 22, driving northbound on a busy road with his wife and two-year-old daughter to an office turkey fry, an unidentified object caught Cruz’s eye.
“As we were driving, I noticed something in the southbound lane,” explained Cruz. “As we got closer, I realized it was a small child lying face down in the road.”
A woman had been struck by an oncoming car while crossing the street with her 18-month-old son in her arms and five-year old son at her side. The younger of the two boys was thrown 40 feet from his mother’s grasp, while the other remained unharmed.
Cruz pulled over, turned on his hazard lights, and made his way to the younger child.
“The first priority was to stop traffic so they wouldn’t hit him,” said Cruz.
As soon as he reached the boy, close in age to his daughter, he turned him over.
First, he tried to wake the child, but received no response. Next, he checked for breathing and a pulse—there were no signs of life.
Upon assessing the situation, Cruz instinctively resorted back to his Air Force medical training.
“It’s like when you put your hand on a hot stove, you automatically take it off because it’s hot; you don’t think about it; it’s a reaction,” said Cruz. “As a military medic, we are trained on how to care for our brothers and sisters at war, so I reacted instinctually.”
Utilizing resuscitation procedures, Cruz revived the boy and he began breathing on his own. He then transported him to safety next to his older brother.
Meanwhile, the driver involved in the incident called 911 and two other individuals assisted the mother. Cruz performed a secondary assessment and kept others calm as the ambulance arrived.
“Cruz’s actions that day were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Neva VanDerSchaegen, the primary care flight commander assigned to the 6th MDOS. “While he did have concern for personal safety, it didn’t stop him from stopping traffic on a busy road to save someone else. He truly showed what it means to be a healthcare provider and an Airman.”
Cruz remains humble saying he just did what anyone would do.
Even through his modesty, Cruz’s actions were just another example of his character.
“It was no surprise to me when I heard how Cruz reacted,” said Senior Airman Monique Johnson, an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 6th MDOS. “As a supervisor, he truly cares.”
In addition, Cruz takes pride in his job and invests himself into executing mission priorities every day.
“Cruz leads from the front,” said VanDerSchaegen. “He takes care of his Airmen and mentors them to be the best they can be.”
Since the incident, Cruz says his perspective on things has changed.
“When you go home, you hold your family a little tighter and you’re truly grateful that they are safe,” said Cruz. “I am thankful for the training the Air Force has given me and that I was able to help.”