Quick-Thinking US Army Soldier Performs Heimlich Maneuver, Saves Choking Baby’s Life

July 10, 2020 Updated: July 10, 2020

A U.S. Army soldier saved a newborn baby’s life while out dining with his family thanks to his quick-thinking actions. When an infant started choking at a nearby table, the soldier rushed to her aid and put his extensive training to the test.

He was later honored for his bravery with a Meritorious Service Medal.

Second Lieutenant Shawn G. Sutter and his family were enjoying a Father’s Day meal on June 21 when they heard cries from across the room. Sutter, a security manager for the 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division on Fort Drum, New York, responded immediately.

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Second Lt. Shawn G. Sutter at Memorial Park on Fort Drum, New York, on July 2, 2020. (Sgt. Brandon Cox/U.S. Army)

“My wife stated she heard a scream that someone was choking,” Sutter told the U.S. Army. “I hopped up, ran back to a group of people, when I saw a woman on her knees with a baby in her hands.”

The Pennsylvania native had been a State Trooper before joining the U.S. Army in 2017 and received extensive training in resuscitation techniques. He plowed through the crowd and asked the frantic mother of the choking infant to hand him her 3-month-old baby.

Sutter made a quick assessment and decided to administer the Heimlich maneuver. After 15 seconds of compressions, Sutter began to feel the baby, named Reagan, breathing on her own again.

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(Illustration – Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

“When something happens we are taught to react,” Sutter said, crediting his extensive Army training. “When you’re running into gunfire, risking life and limb, you react with the training the Army has given you. I absolutely credit the Army for giving me the ability to stay calm and focused during an emergency situation.”

Reagan’s mother, Army Captain Susan Chiarella, recalled feeling “super hysterical” while her baby was in Sutter’s arms. “Once he said that she was breathing I was really relieved,” she said. “He is my daughter’s hero.”

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Sutter with Capt. Joseph Chiarella (R) and Capt. Susan Chiarella (L) following an award presentation at Memorial Park on Fort Drum, New York, on July 2, 2020. (Sgt. Brandon Cox/U.S. Army)

The U.S Army announced Sutter’s heroic deed on Facebook, quoting Sutter.

“The whole time I was giving compressions to the baby, I could hear the mother behind me screaming, ‘Save my baby!’ All I could think about at that moment was, please start breathing again,” Sutter recalled.

The Army’s Facebook post was shared over 1,000 times and hundreds of comments amassed, praising the soldier for his heroism.

“This is what I call God putting you in the same place at the same time to save this child’s life,” wrote one social media user. “You are indeed a hero, not only to this child and family, but also to this great nation! Thank you for your service!”

“Thank you sir for acting, not second-guessing,” wrote another. “God bless you and your family and fellow service members. From a daughter, mother, and spouse of American military service members present, retired, and past, thank you so much.”

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Sutter is presented with the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) by Brig. Gen. Brett Funck at Memorial Park on Fort Drum, New York. (Sgt. Brandon Cox/U.S. Army)

Sutter was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on July 2 in a ceremony held at Memorial Park on Fort Drum, New York. Attendees honored Sutter’s pivotal role in saving the choking newborn baby’s life, and the soldier was reunited with baby Reagan and her grateful parents, Captains Susan and Joseph Chiarella.

“I feel like I did what I had to do,” Sutter said. “I was lucky enough to have the training to be able to help a family that was in need.”

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