JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --
June 10 of this year started out as a typical day for Master Sgt. Kevin Cerovich, a trombonist with the Air Force’s premier jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note. He was on his way to the historic Hangar Two on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, accomplishing his daily commute from Virginia on Interstate 295. Little did he know that day that his cool head and quick reaction time would possibly help save someone’s life.
He drove by the typical landmarks in Southeast Washington, such as the Potomac River and the D.C. Water Plant, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. However, as he drove by the weigh station, he heard a loud noise and observed dust and brown smoke directly in front of him. Sgt. Cerovich immediately pulled over and thought if he could help somehow, it would be better than nothing.
What he saw was the aftermath of a serious accident involving a box truck, a pickup truck, and a four-door sedan that had been broadsided on the driver's side by the large box truck. There was also a myriad of two-by-four wooden planks scattered along the side of the road. Sgt. Cerovich rushed to the sedan, looked in, and saw that the car driver, a male in his 20's, was unconscious.
At this time, a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard , Senior Airman Blake Adler, also arrived at the accident scene. Both Airman Adler and Sgt. Cerovich noticed that the truck which hit the sedan was still running and that there was clear liquid pouring from the bottom of the car. Sgt. Cerovich quickly retrieved a knife to cut the driver’s seatbelt, which allowed Airmen Adler, guided by Cerovich, to pull the driver out of the sedan and out of harm’s way.
The driver of the car was bleeding, had incurred several cuts, and was clearly suffering from shock. He had also hit his head, but it was unclear at that point whether or not he had sustained a head injury. Airmen Adler retrieved a shirt, and started to apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
After several minutes, the driver’s mother, brother, and EMTs appeared on the scene. The driver’s mother and brother became distressed and started to pace along the heavily traveled interstate. The two airmen saw that the situation was becoming precarious, as the driver’s wife, who had been in a different car, and was also pregnant with a small child in tow had become hysterical. Adler helped calm the victim's brother while Cerovich guided the victim’s wife from open lanes of traffic to a safe location.
For months, Sgt. Cerovich attempted to locate the driver’s residence in the accident’s aftermath to no avail. That is until late September when he finally made contact with a family member who informed Cerovich that the victim was alive and well; his wife had also recently given birth to their new baby girl! This brought much relief to Cerovich and Adler, who had simply proceeded to their respective duty stations after the accident with no word of the patient’s condition.
Reflecting on the incident, Sgt. Cerovich describes the experience as “surreal,” and was emotionally affected by the events. He states, “I was reminded of how dizzyingly fast life can change. It is so important to be present with friends and family, as so poignantly stated by James Brown’s classic, “Maybe the Last Time.” I shudder to think that if there had been a fire, it would have been a much different story for the driver of that car.”
Additionally, Sgt. Cerovich felt his time and the training that he had received in the Air Force, and a prior career in EMT training equipped him for times such as these. He reflects, “I’m glad that I stopped and helped. I am also glad for the training the Air Force has provided me. It has definitely given me more confidence in stressful situations.”
For their acts of bravery and service, Airmen Adler was awarded the Air Force Achievement medal, and Sgt. Cerovich was publicly recognized at a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park on September 14.
If anyone encounters a similar situation where staying cool under pressure and quick responses are required, Sgt. Cerovich offers this piece of advice: “Ensure your own safety, and call 911. From there, go do what you can, if you feel called to do it.”