Kunsan airman saves Korean man's life
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
PHILPOT, Ky. — June 24 wasn't just another day in the life of Airman 1st Class Patrick Shemwell, whose job as an avionics specialist is to maintain electronic equipment on aircraft and repair flight control systems.
The 26-year-old Philpot native, who's assigned to the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, used CPR to save the life of a Korean man in his 20s.
"It was an adrenaline rush," said Shemwell in a telephone interview Tuesday. "It was a blur. All my thoughts were, ‘I have to save this person.'
"I never thought I'd have to use the CPR training that I learned in the Air Force."
The event occurred about 9 p.m. that Sunday. Shemwell, a 2004 Daviess County High School graduate and five-year Air Force veteran, went to church earlier in the day and then the gym. At night, he went to dinner by himself near the base, and as he left the restaurant, he heard a commotion in the street.
"There was a crowd of about 10 to 12 panicking bystanders," Shemwell said. "I pushed through and saw a young Korean about as old as me on the ground gasping for air. I checked his pulse and he had none. He'd stopped breathing.
"I administered CPR and after four or five compressions, he started breathing on his own again."
Shemwell went into a nearby store to verify that the police had been called to the scene and when
he returned to the street, the man had stopped breathing again, so Shemwell resumed his life-saving efforts and resuscitated him.
"A minute later, U.S. security forces arrived and directed a Korean ambulance to the location," he said. "I found out later that the man was fine, safe and with his family."
Shemwell returned to the base, but didn't mention the event to anyone except his immediate superior. Soon, however, word spread around the base and people have been calling him a hero and a life-saver.
"I'm not a hero," said Shemwell, acknowledging that "it's difficult to give yourself credit." He did, however, applaud his training that allowed him to calmly swing into action.
"The Air Force has prepared me for any situation," he said.
"It's beyond impressive to see how Shemwell kept calm under pressure while he put his skills to use," said Master Sgt. Frederic Spears, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit flight chief, in a story appearing on the base's website. "To see someone step outside their realm of expertise is a testament to why we're here. I'm very proud of how he represented himself and the Air Force."
The Air Force is planning to give Shemwell an award, he said.
After returning to the base that night, Shemwell called home to inform his parents of what took place.
"He was so excited that he did what he did," said his mother Judith Anderson. "I'm not surprised (at) what he did, just proud.
"Patrick's very well organized and very disciplined."
Shemwell attends Embry Riddle University at the base when he's not on duty and hopes to become an Air Force officer.
Shemwell called himself "a regular student" at DCHS who didn't know what he wanted to with his life after graduation.
"The military was the answer I was looking for," he said. "I'm proud to serve in the military because we truly dedicate our lives to preserve the unity we share with our host nations."