• Kilian receives Carnegie Medal for heroism

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  • Tisha Swart-Entwistle | Combined Arms Center Public Affairs
    More than 100 years after her grandfather received the Carnegie Medal for an act of heroism, retired Lt. Col. Deanne Kilian was awarded her own Carnegie Medal during a ceremony Oct. 26 at Frontier Chapel.
    Kilian, a nurse practitioner at Munson Army Health Center, received the award for risking her life to rescue and protect co-worker Capt. Katie Ann Blanchard during an assault Sept. 7, 2016.
    According to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, the Carnegie Medal is awarded “to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”
    “All of us in attendance are simply awestruck by the bravery you demonstrated,” said Col. Scott Mower, Medical Department Activity and Munson Army Health Center commander. “Your unhesitating courage and quick reactions undoubtedly saved Katie’s life.”
    Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Johnson, U.S. Army Regional Health Command-Central commanding general, presented Kilian with the medal.
    “This is a prestigious award,” Johnson said. “And I can think of no one person more deserving of this award than Ms. Deanne Kilian.”
    Kilian said the commission contacted her through one of the FBI agents working on the case not very long after the assault happened. She told the commission she would talk to them, but had to wait until the trial for the case had completed.
    “I was taken aback a little bit because I knew about the Carnegie Medal because my grandfather had won it,” Kilian said. “So even from the beginning, it was really an honor to even be thought of and to be considered for that.”
    In 1909, William Fred Bayless was a 23-year-old farmer in southwest Kansas. Two men had been digging a well on the property of another farmer, Clarence Thompson, and when they didn’t surface, Thompson went down into the well to check on them. Thompson and the first two men had been overcome by a gas.
    “So then my grandfather (Bayless) lowered himself down on a rope, he was the fourth man down in the well,” Kilian said. “He took the rope off and put the rope on the third man (Thompson) and sent him back up.”
    Kilian said her grandfather worked to keep his head above the gas until the rope could be sent back down for him.
    “He survived and the man he sent up on the rope survived; the other two men did not,” Kilian said. “I always knew how special this medal was.”
    Kilian said it’s not like she planned to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps.
    Page 2 of 3 - “I’ve always been a caring person, I care about other people, that’s who I am,” Kilian said. “I just thank God that I was in the right place at the right time to make a difference in her life.”
    Kilian was previously awarded the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor in a ceremony March 17, 2017, for her actions. Two of Kilian’s co-workers who responded to the attack were also recognized at that ceremony. Dr. Adela Ganacias also received the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor, and Sgt. Jeremy Dahlen was presented the Soldier’s Medal.
    Kilian said on the evening of the attack, she was staying a bit late after a meeting had wrapped up to work on patient charts. She was in her office when she heard some muffled sounds and voices coming from Blanchard’s office next door.
    “When you’re staying late you always go check things,” Kilian said. “It’s what you do.”
    When Kilian approached Blanchard’s office, she said another co-worker, Clifford Currie, was blocking the door, but she heard Blanchard saying “help me,” so she pushed Currie aside and saw that Blanchard was in flames from the waist up.
    “I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on,” Kilian said. “You don’t have time to think.”
    When Kilian couldn’t quickly locate anything to put the fire out with, she used her bare arms to wipe down Blanchard’s torso hoping that would help. Kilian said she tried to get Blanchard’s uniform off but the zipper was melted shut.
    Kilian said she then yelled for Ganacias to bring a blanket. Ganacias and Kilian moved Blanchard to the hallway and put the fire out with the blanket.
    “We put the blanket on her and helped her down to the floor and we thought we were done,” Kilian said.
    On the way out to the hall, Kilian said she saw Currie open a straight razor.
    “And my mind said, ‘Why isn’t he helping, what is he doing?’ but my focus was ‘I’ve got to get the fire out,’” Kilian said. “You don’t have much time.”
    Kilian was kneeling on the floor trying to assess Blanchard when she said she felt Currie behind her.
    “He was kicking Katie and he was kicking me in the back,” Kilian said. “I turned around and he was there with the straight razor so I reached up to try and keep the straight razor from getting to Katie and I kind of laid on top of her to protect her.”
    Page 3 of 3 - When Ganacias returned from calling 911, she also tried to subdue Currie who was armed with the straight razor and a pair of scissors.
    Kilian said Currie then moved to the other side of Blanchard to put his foot on Blanchard’s neck.
    “I knew I had to do something,” Kilian said. “I grabbed his leg, pulled back as hard as I could and I dislodged him.”
    Dahlen then arrived and subdued Currie until he could be taken into custody.
    Kilian was later treated for the burns to her hands and arms as well as a fracture in her leg that happened during the struggle. Blanchard was treated for burns to 18 percent of her body and spent 42 days in the hospital.
    Currie was charged in the U.S. District Court with one count of assault with intent to commit murder. In August 2017 he was found guilty and in November 2017 he was sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison.
    Kilian said she is in the process of healing.
    “I’m still working on it,” Kilian said. “Part of healing is telling everybody about the story.”
    Prompted by the 1904 mine disaster in Harwick, Pa., one of the worst coal mining accidents in U.S. history, Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission to recognize acts of civilian heroism. More than 10,000 people have received a Carnegie Medal and more than $40 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance since the commission was established.
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