Heroes at home

Texas woman meets her Wisconsin Army National Guard heroes
by Ashley M. Alameda
Fort Bliss Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment


Linda Hartman wipes away tears as she sits with her father, Paul Garcia (blue shirt) and her husband, Doug (black shirt). Hartman is meeting the three Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers who saved her life in a car accident in January. From left to right, Sgt. First Class Todd Richter, Spc. Joshua Aprill and Sgt. Michael Black just returned from a 9-month tour in Afghanistan with their unit, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery. — 
Photo by Ashley M. Alameda, DoMaD PAO Linda Hartman wipes away tears as she sits with her father, Paul Garcia (blue shirt) and her husband, Doug (black shirt). Hartman is meeting the three Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers who saved her life in a car accident in January. From left to right, Sgt. First Class Todd Richter, Spc. Joshua Aprill and Sgt. Michael Black just returned from a 9-month tour in Afghanistan with their unit, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery. — Photo by Ashley M. Alameda, DoMaD PAO FORT BLISS, Texas - Chaparral, Texas, resident Linda Hartman thanked, face to face, the Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers who saved her life nine long months ago.

Hartman was the passenger of a single car, rollover accident in January of this year. The black Ford Focus she was riding in veered off a highway and slammed into a guard rail causing the vehicle to flip over six times before coming to a complete stop. Hartman suffered a cracked sternum, four cracked ribs, closed fractures in her left leg and an open femur bone fracture in her right that severed her femoral artery.

That morning, Sgt. 1st Class Todd Richter of the Plymouth, Wis.-based Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, picked up two of his Soldiers from ammunitions guard detail at White Sands Missile Range. He was driving (recently promoted) Sgt. Michael Black and Spc. Joshua Aprill back to Dona Ana Base Camp when they came upon the mangled sedan. The Soldiers pulled over to see how they could help.

Black, who is a combat medic, grabbed his medical bag and began to treat Hartman, applying a tourniquet to her right leg. Richter assisted Black by stabilizing Hartman’s neck. Aprill cleared debris from the road and directed traffic while keeping the uninjured driver of the vehicle calm.

The soldiers were at Fort Bliss to conduct pre-deployment training. Two days after the incident, they deployed to Afghanistan. They returned from deployment Oct. 11 , and to Wisconsin Oct. 18.

At the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment Headquarters Oct. 17, a nervous Hartman fi- nally met her heroes, who she now considers family. Flanked by her father, Paul Garcia, and husband, Doug, Hartman gave a tearful hug to each soldier.

The group sat and recounted memories of that day. Despite the seriousness of the accident and Hartman’s injuries, the mood remained light and comical. It was mentioned that Hartman was Black’s first live patient. She looked at him and asked “How was I?” prompting laughter throughout the room.

She asked the men, “What were you thinking when you drove by?”

“We were not thinking anything - we were tired!” Black replied, noting that they had just come from 24-hour duty and had been awake all night. “When I think back to that night, it is all a blur.”

Hartman has had a painful recovery since that day. She has undergone several surgeries, including removal of her knee joint. She has suffered through infections and painful skin grafts. She still has surgeries planned and at least a year of recovery time. Hartman remains positive about her progress and says her situation could have been so much worse if she were not wearing a seatbelt.

“You never think it is going to happen to you until it happens to you,” she said.

The soldiers are impressed with Hartman’s healing process. Black said in a local news station’s television interview “It’s fantastic to see how far she has come since the incident. Seeing where she started and the kind of trauma that she’s suffered, it is amazing to see the spirit she has kept up through the entire ordeal.”

During the reunion, DoMaD Director Col. John F. Dorney presented the heroes with coins,

“From one citizen soldier to another, thank you,” Dorney told the three soldiers.

The newly extended family broke bread at Texas Roadhouse on post, where they were recognized by the staff and given free ice cream.

Richter and Aprill were awarded Army Commendation Medals for their involvement. Black was recommended for the Soldier’s Medal. The Soldier’s Medal is the highest award one can receive in a noncombat related environment. Even though the award is still pending approval, plans are being made for it to be presented to Black at the National Guard of the United States convention next year.


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