Battlefield angels are military's saving grace

Elkton National Guardsman and medic is among 10 honorees

  • From left to right, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; ASYMCA Angels of the Battlefield award recipient Sergeant Antoine King, U.S. Army National Guard; and General Eugene Habiger, USAF (Ret.), Chairman of the Board of Directors, Armed Services YMCA.
From left to right, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint… (Armed Services YMCA, Baltimore…)
April 02, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Sgt. Antoine A. King, 41, lives in Elkton, works for the City of Havre de Grace and has spent much of the past decade serving as a medic with the Army National Guard.

He was one of 10 medical personnel, representing all branches of the military, honored as Angels of the Battlefield at the fifth annual Armed Services YMCA gala Wednesday in Washington.

"I really was quite surprised to receive the award and honored to represent the Army National Guard medics at this event," King said.

Each year, the ASYMCA, which has offered support and relief to soldiers and their families since the Civil War, asks the various branches to nominate their most outstanding corpsmen for the award.

"These are medics who are putting their own lives on the line to bring home their comrades," said Michael J. Landers, chief operations officer for the nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va. "Every year, we hear incredible instances of recovery because a wounded soldier was found in the field on time. It is amazing how quickly these medics react."

King, the only Maryland honoree, has served more than 14 years and completed three deployments, including tours in Nicaragua and Iraq.

"I joined later in life at 28," he said. "I just looked around and decided it was time for me to give back. The Guard is a great way to know you are helping others. As medics, you almost feel you are bringing people back to life."

In the late 1990s, few guardsmen ever expected to leave home on long deployments, he said. Many joined for the extra pay and benefits as much as the experience, but "that all changed after 9/11," he said. "Now nearly every Guard unit in the country has gone on deployment."

He initially trained as a fuel handler, but was quickly drawn into the medical corps, he said.

"I liked everything about it," he said."This really is the new Army. It requires everyone to take the initiative."

He has treated a heart attack victim while on an airport security detail, and counseled young soldiers in emotional and mental distress.

"Medics are not only working with their hands," he said. "Many times, it is their example. I am a husband, a father, and I can relate to everything others are going through."

During a mass casualty in Iraq, King was one of the first medics on scene. He helped treat more than 25 wounded, according to Army officials.

"You realize quickly that you have a mission that is important to fulfill," he said. "You have to work at that mission until you come home."

His 22-year-old son, Stephen A. King, has followed him into the military and is a Navy corpsman serving at Camp Pendleton in California.

"I tell everyone to think about the military," the elder King said. "Just look at what you are giving back to your community, your family and yourself."

King was injured during a training exercise in Kosovo in 2008 and has undergone several surgeries. He has been listed as a Wounded Warrior since that incident and will soon be leaving active duty.

At the gala Wednesday, King, dressed in his formal dark blue uniform, accepted a gold plate with the Angels in the Battlefield logo and the gift of a quilt, one of the many sewn by volunteer quilters across the country and given as symbolic homecoming presents to returning soldiers.

"I have had 14 wonderful years, and I know I have saved many lives," he said.

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