National Guard members spend countless hours every year training for the next big mission. For SPC Nicole McKenzie, that mission wasn’t overseas – it was below an overpass in New York.
As she was driving home from the Yonkers Armory on Aug. 3, 2018,
SPC McKenzie, a cable systems installer and maintainer with A Company, 101st Signal Battalion, New York Army National Guard, saw a flash of red going over a guardrail on the Saw Mill River Parkway. She immediately pulled her car to the side of the road.
“I saw what looked like the outline of a boy going over the side,” SPC McKenzie said. “I knew something was wrong.”
Her instincts had been sharpened by nearly six years of combined Army training, which erased all doubt and hesitation at the scene.
“Thanks to my Army training, it was all automatic; everything was fluid,” SPC McKenzie said.
She ran to the edge of the bridge, where police officer Jessie Ferreira Cavallo of the Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department was already assessing the scene.
When SPC McKenzie saw the 12-year-old boy lying on the rocks below, she shouted to Cavallo, “Let’s go!” They both ran to the shallow end of the overpass, climbed over a fence, and dropped 10 feet to the jagged ground below.
The boy – a resident of the Bronx, New York – had ran away from the Yonkers, New York-based organization ANDRUS, a private, nonprofit organization that provides services to children who are vulnerable, special needs or suffer from severe emotional and behavior issues.
ANDRUS staff members had followed the boy and were speaking with him when he jumped from the overpass.
SPC McKenzie, who spent three years on active duty with the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion and had recently completed Combat Lifesaver (CLS) training with the National Guard, immediately began to assess the injuries the boy had sustained in the fall.
She used her cell phone flashlight to administer a concussion test, took his vital signs and kept talking to him so he stayed awake and alert.
Next, she shouted to a bystander above to grab the CLS bag from her trunk and throw it down. She and Cavallo then used splints from her bag to secure the boy’s neck, arm and leg. They stayed with him until the medics arrived and took him to Westchester Medical Center.
The Westchester County Police records department confirmed the pivotal role that both SPC McKenzie and local police played in working together to assist the boy, who was hospitalized with a broken arm, broken nose and leg injuries.
SPC McKenzie doesn’t think she’s a hero. For her, it’s all about loyalty to her unit and her community.
“I wear the uniform every day because I want to help Soldiers – I want to help people,” she said. “This is my family.”
By SSG Michael Davis, New York National Guard