Updated: Feb 20, 2020
This CA Major's actions are emblematic of the quality of people present within the Civil Affairs community. The original story was published on the front page of the Florida Times Union,
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Army major's quick actions help save man in Atlantic Beach by Amanda Williamson
The calls for help came suddenly — but no one in the shopping plaza made any attempt to respond to the frantic man standing near a shoe repair store off Atlantic Boulevard.
Army Maj. Arnel David, however, didn’t think twice.
“I’m a soldier,” he said. “What do you need?”
Turns out, Lonzo Brown’s friend Jim DiPietro suffered cardiac arrest while the two men played cribbage at the little corner shop next to A&J’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream. Brown called the police that day in January, but he also tried to enlist help from the men and women outside Jim’s Shoe Repair.
Already, DiPietro had been unconscious for four minutes. David checked to see if DiPietro was breathing. Nothing. Then, he checked his pulse. Nothing.
“The timing was so tight,” David said. “Five minutes is usually the time frame for not having air or a pulse. After that, that’s it. You’re not going to recover. But I knew I had to try. That’s what we do as soldiers.”
His training immediately kicked in.
The Army major, who has 19 years of military service behind him, began to perform first aid — a series of chest compressions in attempt to revive DiPietro. He knew, however, the man also wasn’t breathing. While cardiopulmonary resuscitation no longer requires mouth-to-mouth, David said he gave the rescue breaths anyway. On the second breath, the store owner coughed, but did not come to. David could feel a faint pulse. Perhaps it was a minute — maybe two.
Then, first responders arrived and took over. Even as they loaded DiPietro on the ambulance, David doubted whether or not his actions were enough to save the man’s life.
David, who was visiting his family in Atlantic Beach, returned home to Washington, D.C. He left not knowing if his actions made a difference. Shortly after, staff with the city of Atlantic Beach contacted David to tell them the news: He had saved DiPietro’s life.
The city awarded David, 37, a Citizen Life Saving Award on March 28.
“Mr. DiPietro has since recovered and is doing well,” wrote the Chief of Police J. Michael Deal in a staff report. “Major David’s quick actions to save the life of Mr. DiPietro are clearly deserving of a Life Saving Award.”
David and his family drove 10 hours from their home in the nation’s capital to Atlantic Beach. He said he wanted his wife, son and daughter to be present for the award ceremony. David will leave this summer for Afghanistan, his sixth deployment since starting his military career. He’s already served five combat deployments in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Pacific. By the time, he finishes his year in Afghanistan he will have been away from his family for a total of 4 1/2 years.
So, it was important they came with him when he received the award — and met the man he saved. “[DiPietro’s] whole family came out, his grandkids, his son,” David said. “That’s really what was so special about it — how appreciative his family was. To me, my hope was to get him back enough to get him to the hospital so he could see his family, so he didn’t die on the floor. But, he fully recovered and that’s amazing.”
When David and his family arrived in Atlantic Beach and met DiPietro, David said there was a lot of emotion among those present. His wife, Katherine, started crying. When she first heard the story, he said, she didn’t really connect with how big of a deal it was to the DiPietro family.
“But when she saw his family, it was really special,” David said. “It was an honor to receive the award. There’s nothing more important than preserving the sanctity of life. Hopefully, this encourages people to take action when they see someone who needs help. We need more of that social good.”
According to DiPietro, he never saw the cardiac arrest coming. He doesn’t have a history of heart problems and, overall, considers himself healthy. Even that Saturday, he said, he wasn’t doing anything strenuous.
But, he knew as soon as he heard the story of the soldier who saved his life that he wanted to meet David. “I was so blessed,” DiPietro said. “I want to tell you that right now. He was in the area for a reason because no one else would have jumped in like that. He absolutely saved my life.”