Veteran who saved lives calls himself 'very lucky or very unlucky'
By DYLAN SUTTLES | The Telegraph | Published: September 5, 2019
ALTON, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — Sometimes we need to be reminded that Good Samaritans still exist.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office employees Jason Thompson, Jason Welch, Justin Redshaw and Katelynn Dearth were honored last week with the MVD Star of Life Award, presented by Maj. Gen. Mark Toy, Mississippi Valley Division commander.
Last, September the team rescued a paddler in distress on the upstream side of Melvin Price Locks (located on the Upper Mississippi River, about 17 miles north of Saint Louis, Mo.).
For Thompson, it wasn’t the first time he’s answered the call in moments of distress. His been tested multiple times throughout his life.
One of the first he recalls occurred in middle school. While in English class, he noticed one of his classmates had a pistol in his backpack. He immediate told the principal and the culprit was apprehended.
He’s also helped treat a motorcycle rider who crashed; saved an older couple’s lives when the husband fell off of a houseboat; and rescued a man who fell off of a personal watercraft at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam.
Thompson said he gets his bravery from his 22 years of military experience in both the Army and the Marine Corps.
“When you spend that much time out in the field, you figure out how to keep a calm and cool head,” he said.
He says there is one reason why he steps in.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” he said.
Thompson said his eyes were opened in 2006 when he moved to Alton, Ill. While downtown applying for a job at the Argosy Casino Alton, he saw two men who had stolen wire from AT&T collide with an SUV Landmarks Boulevard. Thompson said he pulled a father and child out of the struck vehicle and then stopped one of the thieves from leaving the scene before administering first aid to a woman who also was inside the SUV.
“Everybody was taking pictures or recording on their phone,” he said. “And I’m sitting there, thinking, ‘Is this what we’ve come to?’”
Despite the observation, Thompson said he often finds humor in how he becomes involved in such situations.
“I’m either very lucky or very unlucky — depending on how you look at it,” he said.
Thompson added that he hoped sharing his story would encourage others to do what they are supposed to do in such instances.