• CGSC major tries to save gunshot victim

  • For his actions on that cold Sunday afternoon, Buckingham was recommended for a Soldier's Medal.

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  • Chago Zapata | Army University Public Affairs
    On a cold and overcast Sunday afternoon Feb. 24, Maj. Karl D. Buckingham, 35, a Command and General Staff Officer Course student, found himself in an unusual situation that was not completely unfamiliar to a veteran of five combat deployments. He found himself providing first aid to a gunshot victim.
    It started out as an average Sunday. He was at the gym in his North Kansas City apartment building working out with his girlfriend. He had just finished lifting weights and was getting ready to start his cardio workout on the treadmill when a man ran into the gym and told them that somebody out front had just been shot.
    Buckingham said his first thought was “he’s probably overreacting.” Somebody probably got hurt out in the parking lot or in the grocery store nearby.
    “There’s probably nobody in the area who can immediately help someone who’s hurt,” he thought to himself. “Even though I’m not an EMT or a combat medic, I can evaluate a casualty and provide immediate care.
    “I immediately left the gym, with my girlfriend following close behind me, and when I turned the corner into the lobby I noticed the broken glass and the obvious bullet holes in the glass entrance,” he said. “I realized then that this was a bad situation.”
    Buckingham turned around and urged his girlfriend to go upstairs to the apartment.
    Time seemed to slow down and as he made his way closer he saw a man outside near the entrance at the top of the stairs holding a small pistol kneeling over a second man lying face down in a spreading pool of blood. A third man, the alleged shooter, lay on the ground at the bottom of the stairs with his hands spread and a pistol nearby.
    The situation was tense.
    Then an older man with a holstered pistol joined the scene. He had been waiting for his wife in the parking lot and decided to help. He urged everyone to stay calm and was instrumental in defusing the tense situation.
    “I thought at this point that there were way too many people out here with guns,” he said.
    Buckingham said he thought the bleeding man was probably dead until he saw the man’s back rise and fall; he knew he was still alive and trying to breathe.
    After seeing the older man kick the pistol away from the alleged shooter, Buckingham decided to get his individual first-aid kit, which contained a tourniquet, an Israeli bandage (used to stop blood flow from traumatic wounds), chest seals, gauze and plastic gloves.
    Page 2 of 3 - He had put the kit together and kept it in his truck just in case something happened.
    Buckingham, a Civil Affairs officer, rushed back to keep the wounded man’s airway open and stop the bleeding.
    Buckingham said the basics of evaluating a casualty kicked in. After 18 years in the Army, it was almost instinctual; he knew what to grab, what to look for, and how to react to what he was seeing.
    “I went to roll the individual over and noticed an exit wound in his back but it looked like a lot of the bleeding was coming from the front,” he said. “When I pulled his shirt up I realized he had three bullet wounds, two in the abdomen and one in the upper chest.”
    In an attempt to stop the bleeding, he bandaged the wounds with gauze and used the Israeli bandage.
    Police secured the scene and Buckingham continued to provide first aid until an emergency medical team arrived and took over life-saving efforts.
    Buckingham said his father is a retired soldier who always told him “never skimp out on first aid training because there’s always something more to learn.”
    Buckingham said he had experience with gunshot wounds in the course of his five combat deployments. He had dealt with wounded soldiers before.
    However, he admitted, this situation was different.
    “When you’re deployed, whether on patrol or at the (forward operating base), there’s always a sense that something can happen. You’re in a hyper-vigilant state, everything seems like it’s dangerous to you and you’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Buckingham explained. “What was different here is that I didn’t wake up that Sunday morning expecting to be treating gunshot wounds in the afternoon right outside my apartment building.”
    He said that at one point the switch flipped and it was time to act.
    “I’ve been here before. I’ve seen this. I’ve trained on this. Let me get after this,” he said.
    “In a situation like this, I don’t think being an officer or enlisted makes any difference, it was my first aid training as a soldier that counted,” Buckingham said. “I would hope that anyone who comes into a similar situation can keep a cool level head, evaluate the situation, make appropriate decisions and act on them.”
    Buckingham said he went through an emotional rollercoaster afterward. He experienced what he called an “adrenaline dump” and did not sleep at all that night. He kept thinking about what he could have done differently.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Knowing the individual didn’t survive, a lot of things went through my mind. Should I have moved faster? Should I have sealed the front wound instead of the back wound?” he said. “At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I did the best that I could. I like to hope that I gave him a better chance of survival.”
    Buckingham has words of advice for fellow soldiers.
    “The No. 1 point I have for my fellow soldiers is to be prepared. Something as little as having a first-aid kit in your car can make a difference,” he said.
    Pay attention to tactical combat casualty care training, he continued.
    “I never once thought that I would ever be treating gunshot wounds on the front steps to my apartment complex, but I did pack my (first-aid kit) in my truck just in case I came upon an accident, at least I would have something to help out with first aid,” Buckingham said.
    Buckingham also said that it is not a sign of weakness to admit being shaken up after a difficult situation or talking to someone about the experience.
    “We tell ourselves ‘I’m OK. I can tough this out,’” he said. “There’s really no need for that. It’s OK to ask for help.”
    For his actions on that cold Sunday afternoon, Buckingham was recommended for a Soldier’s Medal.
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