Sergeant Rescues Infant from Overturned Car


When Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Farrell lifted 6-month-old Liam Coffeen into his arms, the healthy child smiled.

Liam's parents -- 1st Lt. Brian and Caitlin Coffeen -- offered their hands in a warm welcome to the soldier.

For all intents and purposes, Farrell was a stranger to the young Fort Bragg family. But his is a name Liam may come to know.

The two met about a month ago, Aug. 18, under very different circumstances.

Liam was dangling in a car seat in a vehicle leaking gasoline.

Nearby, electricity arced from the utility pole his mother's car had struck.

Caitlin was outside the vehicle, disoriented and screaming.

Farrell concentrated on Liam, contorting his frame through the rear window of the vehicle, talking as much for himself as he did to keep the toddler calm.

"I'm going to get you out," Farrell recalled saying.

Even before the wreck, Caitlin Coffeen was afraid for Liam.

She was taking her sick son to Womack Army Medical Center. He was showing symptoms of the flu, and that was weighing on her as she drove south on N.C. 87 and struck a puddle.

Farrell saw what happened next.

The Coffeen car cut from his right to his left, then careened off the road, flipped and hit a utility pole.

He didn't hesitate.

Farrell pulled his vehicle over and approached a disoriented Caitlin, who couldn't retrieve Liam from the car.

"I was hysterical," Caitlin recalled. "I was crying, screaming."

Farrell saw the child hanging in his car seat. He could smell gasoline. And he saw electricity arcing from the struck pole.

"As a soldier, we run to the sound of gunfire," he said last week after meeting the Coffeen family outside Spout Springs Emergency Services.

Coffeen said he reacted with little though to his actions after seeing the wreck, which occurred south of Spout Springs.

He knew the baby needed to get out of the car, and that there may not be time to wait for emergency personnel.

Farrell said he thought of his own wife and children.

"I would want somebody to do it for my family if the roles were reversed," he said.

So Farrell acted. He climbed through the rear window to reach the child.

"I felt like I was in a tight closet," he said.

Afterward, Farrell downplayed his actions.

Any number of people would have done the same thing, he said.

But Caitlin knows that wasn't the case.

She and Farrell both noted the many motorists who drove past without stopping.

She was scared, but Farrell was there for her when others weren't.

"I just wanted him to be safe," she said.

Brian Coffeen said the family was lucky Farrell was nearby.

At the time of the wreck, Brian Coffeen was at Womack waiting for his family.

When he did see them, mother and baby were covered in dirt and glass, but largely OK.

"It was a miracle," he said.

In the weeks since, the Coffeens have wanted to meet Farrell and once again thank him for his actions.

As luck would have it, they wouldn't have to go far to find him.

Farrell is an operations noncommissioned officer with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command Special Troops Battalion.

His commander, Lt. Col. Landis Maddox, is married to Lt. Col. Yolanda Maddox, commander of the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade.

That's the battalion in which 1st Lt. Brian Coffeen serves as operations officer.

Landis Maddox said he and his wife both told stories of the wreck that evening at home. They soon realized they were speaking of the same incident.

"I went home and my wife mentioned what happened," he said. "Then we pieced the story together."

Now, Coffeen's battalion is recommending Farrell be honored for his heroics.

"I'm absolutely thankful," the lieutenant said. "He had no idea there was a soldier's spouse in the car, but it's great seeing soldiers helping another soldier's family."

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