WASHINGTON – The soldiers had passed the Washington Monument and were coming up on the midpoint of their morning jog, the U.S. Capitol. They didn’t see the Metrobus hit the man, but they heard the thud, which jolted them from the quiet rhythm of their run.
Army Sgts. John Russell and Brian Williams rushed to a man lying on the National Mall this week and let their training from Afghanistan and Iraq take over. They turned bystanders’ T-shirts into tourniquets to stem blood flowing from a badly fractured leg and dress a gash on the victim’s forehead.
The last time Russell and Williams encountered casualties, they were under fire in Afghanistan, separately treating soldiers felled by insurgent snipers and a roadside bomb that overturned an armored vehicle.
“The man, he was beat up pretty bad when we ran over to him.” Russell, 37, said, describing what they saw at the Mall accident.
After their war service, the friends returned four years ago and settled into more sedentary lives in the Washington suburbs – Russell with his wife and 5-year-old son, Blake; Williams with his wife and 13-year-old son, Anthony.
Russell – who before Afghanistan had been stationed in Iraq, Cuba and Germany – said his mind immediately focused on his patient, unaware of his surroundings, be it a battlefield or a national park.
“At that point,” he said, “it became only about getting the guy treated.”
D.C. police and fire officials described the unidentified victim’s injuries as serious, and Russell and Williams said he suffered a compound leg fracture, among other injuries.