An Army physician assistant earned the Soldier’s Medal for his bravery and decisiveness when he strapped a makeshift tourniquet on his own mangled arm and treated his badly wounded mentor after motorcyclists slammed into them at high speed.
Lt. Col. Larry Wyatt, a clinic director with Special Operations Command, was on a bicycle ride with retired Ranger Col. Thomas Wells, a Princeton-trained trauma surgeon and avid cyclist, when a pair of motorcycles sped toward them on a narrow bike trail bridge near Tampa.
“I could see a motorcycle front end coming up, and the trail motorcycle pulled around to pass,” Wyatt recalled in an Army statement this week. “There was nowhere for us to go because of the chain link fence around the bridge.”
The motorcycles hit them at about 50 mph, knocking them unconscious. Wyatt was dragged some 30 yards, waking up moments later with a broken nose, cracked teeth, a split eyebrow and a gash in his left forearm down to the bone., which was gushing blood.
“All I could hear was my dad’s voice in my head, ‘You will face rough times in your life. You always get up on your own two feet by yourself. So get up,’ ” Wyatt said in the Army statement.
After borrowing a motorcyclist’s belt and tying it as a tourniquet for his own arm, Wyatt tended to the bikers. He then went to check on Wells, who was on the ground entangled with one of the motorcycles.
Wyatt got one of the bikers to help him move Wells away from the motorcycle, where he began trying to stabilize him. A former Green Beret medical sergeant, Wyatt did a hands-on check of the man he considered something like an older brother, feeling for the grinding of any broken bones.
“He was in a lot of pain,” said Wyatt, whose wound was still dripping blood. “I kept apologizing, ‘I’m sorry for bleeding on you, Doc. … His response was, ‘Just do what you got to do.’ “
After Wyatt called 911 and relayed the list of injuries, the emergency responders had to walk to the scene because the wounded men were still on the narrow bridge. They were rushed to a nearby hospital.
“Doc kept saying, ‘Don’t go anywhere,’ ” Wyatt recalled. “And I said, ‘I’m not going anywhere, brother, I’m right here with you.’ “
Wyatt, who spent more than a 1 1/2 years in recovery and underwent several surgeries, promised himself he’d always carry a tourniquet after the incident. He and Wells both still need more surgeries, the Army said in a statement.
For working through his own injuries to help his friend, Wyatt received the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest award for bravery outside combat, from SOCOM commander Gen. Richard D. Clarke in a Dec. 22 ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
“Wyatt’s personal example of selfless service, superb medical knowledge and unhesitating decisive action are consistent with the greatest traditions of our uniformed services and played a pivotal role in saving the lives of two individuals,” the citation reads.
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