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European edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Base officials have called a noncommissioned officer newly arrived to Italy a hero for saving the life of a fellow soldier.

The ill soldier, who hasn’t been identified by the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), has spent two weeks in San Bortolo Hospital in Vicenza, recovering from a severe case of bacterial pneumonia.

Col. Bradley Harper, commander of the medical clinic at Caserma Ederle and a pathologist, said if Staff Sgt. Ringo Wilson hadn’t demanded that the ill soldier go with him to the clinic, the community might now be mourning the loss of a U.S. servicemember.

“I do know that if he had been allowed to simply sleep it off, he probably would never have woken up,” Harper said Monday of the ill soldier, adding that the case was so severe that “at one point, I told the CG (commanding general) that his chances were 50-50.”

The ill soldier, who appears to be recovering, resisted the notion of medical treatment, putting his life in jeopardy. He could not be reached for comment for this article.

Wilson said he noticed there was something wrong with the private first class when he showed up at the motor pool on April 10. The soldier was pale and appeared to be having trouble breathing. He asked the soldier, who wasn’t in his chain of command, if he was OK, and the soldier replied that he was. Wilson suggested that the soldier go to the base medical clinic, but the soldier declined.

After reflecting on it for a few minutes, Wilson insisted.

“I told him, ‘Grab your stuff, we’re going to the medical clinic,’” he said. Wilson said he took the soldier to the clinic, escorted him to the front of the line and urged medical personnel to look at him immediately.

He said the soldier was soon placed on a respirator and then transported to the Italian hospital. While there, he took a turn for the worse, and his family flew in to stay by his side.

“The Italians did everything right,” Harper said. “They were very aggressive in treating him.”

Wilson, who said he didn’t know how ill the soldier was until later, said he doesn’t think he did anything special.

“I just did what I did,” he said. “That’s like the core of your being an NCO. You’re trained to take care of soldiers.”

Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, SETAF’s commander, presented him with a commander’s coin last week and the word is slowly spreading about Wilson’s actions.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Pitts said Wilson has been an asset to the motor pool since he transferred from Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 101st Airborne Division a few months ago. He said Wilson knows what his responsibilities are and follows through.

“Young soldiers sometimes don’t have the maturity to take care of themselves,” Pitts said. “That’s where an NCO comes in, to make sure they do the right thing.”

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