MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. — As his eyes scanned the scattered debris on I-35, Senior Airman Caleb Holman had a sinking feeling in his chest. A feeling that was confirmed when his glance made its way to the overturned vehicle on the side of the road.
As his eyes scanned the scattered debris on I-35, Senior Airman Caleb Holman had a sinking feeling in his chest. A feeling that was confirmed when his glance made its way to the overturned vehicle on the side of the road.
Holman, then a member of the 931st Security Forces Squadron, was on his way from Indiana to McConnell, Oct. 14, 2014, to complete his out-processing when he noticed the overturned vehicle just outside of Kansas City. He immediately hit the brakes and jumped into first responder-mode to provide assistance.
Timing was essential, as Holman noticed the undercarriage of the car was on fire. As he inspected the vehicle closer, he knew helping those inside wouldn’t be easy.
“The first thing I saw was an [unresponsive] woman with head trauma partially hanging out of the driver’s side window. The car was so mangled and bent I couldn’t get her out easily,” he said. “I then heard her two boys in the back seat.”
The boys, ages 6 and 9, were injured but conscious. Holman quickly climbed into the vehicle. Once he pulled the boys out, he discovered another vehicle had stopped on the side of the road. After ensuring the boys were ok, he left them with the other Good Samaritan and went back to the wreckage.
This time, he checked the passenger side and found a toddler strapped in a car seat. He used his pocket knife to cut the strap holding the child, laid him on the ground and began performing chest compressions. When another motorist stopped to help, he showed them how to perform the chest compressions, and went to help the mother still trapped.
Despite his efforts, Holman was unable to extract the woman from the vehicle. As they waited for medical assistance to arrive, Holman stayed with the woman, prayed with her, and felt her squeeze his hand before she again slipped out of consciousness.
Tragically, neither the mother nor the young toddler survived the horrific accident. Yet Holman says he is grateful he was there with them in their final moments. The two older boys he rescued were taken to a medical facility, and were able to make a safe recovery.
“Caleb’s actions are a testament to the selflessness of our Airmen,” said Col. Mark S. Larson. “Like many service members before him, he didn’t expect to find himself in that type of situation, but when he did, he acted and saved lives. It is an honor to serve with this caliber of Airmen.”
Holman’s former supervisor agrees.
“I was glad that he was able to be there and do what he could to console them at the end,” said Master Sgt. Scott Flaherty 931st SFS action officer. “As a Security Forces member, [we] are first responders; it’s who and what we are. We train to neutralize the threat or provide medical aid as needed. Holman was able to put his fear aside and do what needed to be done.”
Holman continues his service as an Air Force Reservist, now serving with the 434th Security Forces Squadron, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.