CAMP CASEY, South Korea — When a soldier broke his ankle and limited resources were available, Army medic Staff Sgt. Tilford J. Barton III got creative.

Barton scavenged up a frozen MRE to stop the swelling.

“It was chicken tetrazzini and not many people like to eat that anyway,” recalled Spc. Franklin Mashino while eulogizing his fallen squad leader at a memorial service Wednesday.

Mashino’s story lightened the mood at an otherwise teary ceremony, attended by about 200 soldiers and guests at the West Casey Chapel.

Barton, 38, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., died due to an illness on March 1.

Barton, known to his family as “Jamie” and his friends as “T.J.,” died unexpectedly, according to his wife, Melany Edwards-Barton, of Sierra Vista.

“I talked to him a couple of nights before, and he said he had a cold,” Edwards-Barton said in a Thursday telephone interview from Norman, Okla., where her husband will be buried Saturday.

Army officials told Edwards-Barton that on March 1, another medic at Camp Casey took Barton to an aid station after the staff sergeant said he was having trouble breathing.

“He died at the aid station,” Edwards-Barton, 36, said.

Barton was serving as the noncommissioned officer in charge at Camp Casey’s primary-care clinic at the time of his death. He also was a senior line medic for the 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment.

“Everyone in this room who ever had contact with Staff Sgt. Barton knows firsthand … he was a man on whom you could depend,” said Barton’s company commander, Capt. John Barnard.

During his career, Barton deployed to Panama, Somalia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He was a certified combat lifesaver and emergency medical technician instructor.

Mashino credits his last promotion to Barton’s input. He and Barton both were scheduled to report to Fort Bliss, Texas, for their next duty station.

“He was dedicated to his soldiers and always put their needs before his own,” Mashino said.

Fellow medic Sgt. Paul Douglas called Barton “the best NCO I’ve ever had” and a man who paid attention to military detail.

“Sgt. Barton could take any bad situation and make light of it, make it easier,” said Sgt. Paul Douglas. “People should strive to be an NCO like that.”

The circumstances and cause of death have not been released by 2nd ID officials due to an ongoing investigation. Barton was transported to a Dongducheon hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Barton is survived by his wife, Melany Edwards-Barton; his children, Tiffany, Alexis, Tilford and Troy; and his parents, Tilford and Sharon Barton of Norman, Okla.

Barton had no known medical condition that could have led to his death, his grieving spouse said. She is waiting for an Army autopsy report to give her some answers.

“He quit smoking in August. He exercised. He didn’t drink,” Edwards-Barton said. “It’s completely unfair.”

Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this report from the Pentagon.

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