Cpl. Erich Kelsch, right, receives a coin from 4th Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Michael A. Bills. Kelsch was awarded for aiding a teenage gunshot victim. (Spc. Nathan Thome/Army)
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A soldier at Fort Carson, Colo., has been honored for administering first aid to a gunshot victim on the streets of suburban Colorado Springs.
Cpl. Erich Kelsch ran to save a 17-year-old who was shot in the leg by an unknown assailant and managed to stop the bleeding using his Army training. He was aided by fellow Fort Carson soldier, Spc. Matthew L. Hardy of the 759th Military Police Battalion.
Kelsch never got a thank you from the victim or his family, but he never expected one.
“We didn’t expect any praise or thank you, we just did what we would hope someone would do for us,” Kelsch, of Folsom, Calif., told Army Times. “I heard that he was recovering through a newscast on TV.”
Kelsch, a 24-year-old imagery intelligence analyst with the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, was presented with Fort Carson’s Mountain Mover Award on Aug. 6 by garrison commander Col. David L. Grosso.
“I know that there are a lot of soldiers who are doing good things every day that don’t get recognized,” Kelsch said. “It made me feel honored that I was recognized for what I did.”
On July 28, the duo were at Hardy’s home on the southeast side of town, eating lunch, when they heard four or five gunshots out front. They looked out a window to see a young man limping down the street, trying to run and holding his leg.
“It was a shock to see that in that neighborhood, I see kids playing all the time in that neighborhood, and it’s safe,” Kelsch said.
The two of them reasoned it was all clear and exited the house. A neighbor told them the victim was laying in a driveway nearby.
“Me and Matt looked at each other like, we’ve got to help this guy,” he said.
They spied a trail of blood, and took off running to where the victim lay hurt, trying to prop himself up. His shorts and right shoe were soaked in blood.
Kelsch said that’s when his training kicked in. He had trained briefly as an EMT before the Army, but it was a Combat Lifesaver Course from basic training that made the difference.
“It teaches you how to treat wounds in battle, and in this case, at home,” Kelsch said. “It teaches you the basics to be the first responder until actual medical crews get there to take over.”
Hardy supported the wounded teen while Kelsch performed a “blood sweep,” running his hands along his body to find the wound, a single gunshot to the upper right thigh.
“He kept saying to us, ‘Don’t let me die,’ ” Kelsch said. “We kept reassuring him. We kept saying, ‘We’re here, we have you.’ ”
Kelsch removed the victim’s belt and made a tourniquet to slow the bleeding.
The young man was drifting in an out of consciousness, so Kelsch gave him a “sternum rub,” a painful drag of his knuckles against the man’s chest to keep him alert and responsive.
Neighbors had called 911, and emergency crews arrived eventually to take over.
This may be as close as Kelsch will get to actual combat. He deployed once to Korea, and he is due to leave the Army in December to finish a degree in intelligence operations.
He said despite the sense during his training that he would probably never use it, it became part of his “muscle memory,” ready right when he needed it.
“My adrenaline was pumping, and I didn’t freeze,” Kelsch said. “You think in that situation you would freeze up, but it’s amazing what the human body does, and I went through every step of my training — it really kicked in.”