A group of Kansas National Guard members on a health-related mission were sidetracked by distressed girl about to leap off a highway bridge very likely to her death.
It was raining heavily, and the group were heading to Lawrence, Kansas, on May 25 to join the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment on a food-distribution mission bringing 4 million meals to needy families.
On their way, Specialist Darin McQueen noticed a girl perched on the edge of a bridge on Kansas Highway 10, reports the Department of Defense. McQueen told his colleague, Staff Sgt. Joshua Thompson, that their group needed to pull over.
“It was very unusual to see someone sitting on the bridge when it was raining pretty heavily,” McQueen later explained. “[It] meant someone wasn’t doing okay.” Citing extensive military training for his quick instincts, McQueen said the lone girl on the bridge was an “obvious indicator” of trouble afoot.
Seconds after spotting the young woman, whose identity was not released, the Guard members made the decision to stop and help.
Thompson and his colleague Sgt. Caleb Grady slowly approached; she was crying and nudging her way toward the edge, they later said. Thompson engaged her in conversation while Grady climbed down beneath the bridge. “Every time she would look down, she would see me instead of what she was planning on doing,” he explained.
Cpl. Ethan Payne called for backup while others in the group controlled the flow of traffic around the Guard’s vehicles.
“She wanted to know why we had stopped when so many before us had driven by and yelled for her to jump,” Thompson explained, later telling KMBC that the indifference the young woman had suffered made him “sick to my stomach.”
Thompson secured the girl’s trust by reaching out his hand and offering to talk. She accepted his help, and then he helped her off the edge of the bridge and carried her to the van. Other guardsmen then sat down and spoke with her.
McQueen, who first noticed the young woman on the bridge, talked to her about “things she could relate to” to help calm her down.
State troopers arrived on the scene and promised to return the girl’s bike to her house, then first responders notified her family of her whereabouts and drove her to get further help.
“Every soldier is a sensor, a reporter, and this really showcases that,” said group member Cadet Anthony Swanson, as per the DOD. “Their response was the epitome of what it means to be a Guardsman.”
Capt. Matthew Indermuehle, the commander of the soldiers who performed the rescue, praised his team for their moral courage. “They were in the right place at the right time,” he said, “and [were] able to help someone in need.”
According to statistics from the CDC, a total of 48,344 Americans died by suicide in 2018, with an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts that same year. Suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
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