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Giving the breath of life

  • Published
  • By Linda Welz
  • 452 AMW public affair
They called Iraq's Camp Anaconda "Mortaritaville." On April 10, 2004, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Blonde found out why.

He and another medical technician were walking back to their tent after their shift ended at the hospital when a mortar whooshed overhead, flashing as it exploded into a tent a few hundred yards away.

Sergeant Blonde remembers dashing into his tent, shaking a doctor awake and grabbing emergency equipment before running toward the damaged tent.

"You could see the smoke billowing out of the tent and a giant hole near the front entrance," said Sergeant Blonde.

The inside of the tent was filled with a thick, dark smoke that was heavy with the stench of sulfur. He crouched as he made his way toward the rear so he could see and breathe.

After pulling one critically injured Airman out, Sergeant Blonde went back in, further to the back this time. There, he found Airman 1st Class Scott Palomino, who was missing a foot and going into shock.

"I remember him grabbing me, like out of a movie," said Sergeant Blonde. "He had a hold of my shirt and hand and he said, 'I don't want to die. Don't let me die.'"

Airman Palomino survived and has since gone on to run marathons with a prosthetic leg, said Sergeant Blonde, who searched the Internet hoping to learn his former patient had received good care and rehabilitation.

That is just one instance of the compassion and respect Sergeant Blonde has for each of the thousands of critically injured patients he treats. Saving lives is the heart and soul of who Sergeant Blonde is, and that has not gone unnoticed.

Sergeant Blonde, 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron manager for the Critical Care Aeromedical Transport Team program, will travel from his home in Gilbert, Ariz., to Washington, D.C., May 19 to accept the PenFed Military Hero Award at the 2011 Night of Heroes Gala.

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation, a nonprofit national charity working to fill the unmet needs of military personnel and their families, honors a group of service members each year. This year's theme is "Honoring our wounded military heroes and the heroes of the medical community who provide the continuum of care from battlefield to homefront."

"Tech. Sgt. Matt Blonde represents the best of who we are," said Col. Robert J. Weisenberger, 452nd Medical Group commander. "Despite the heavy physical and emotional price that comes with caring for our wounded warriors, Matt has repeatedly volunteered for the most difficult assignments since 9/11."

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