Civilians Who Helped Save Marine Corps Commandant During Cardiac Arrest to Be Honored at Parade

Gen. Eric M. Smith presents Distinguished Public Service Award to Timothy LaLonde
The 39th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric M. Smith, presents a Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award to Timothy LaLonde at the Home of the Commandants, May 9, 2024. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Several people who helped save the commandant of the Marine Corps' life after his cardiac arrest last fall will be honored Friday night during an "Evening Parade" at Marine Barracks Washington, just a block away from where the four-star general collapsed on the sidewalk about six months ago.

Gen. Eric Smith suffered cardiac arrest near his home in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29, landing him in the hospital. It was the actions of a few bystanders and first responders that helped get him there -- ultimately helping save his life.

Subsequently, Smith underwent open-heart surgery to repair a congenital defect that doctors said contributed to his cardiac arrest. He spent the next several months recovering, but returned to full duty status as commandant in early March, just four months after the life-threatening event.

Read Next: Investigation Finds Navy Supply Ship Ran Aground After Captain Left to Eat Dinner

Now, on Friday, he will serve as the hosting official for a parade at Marine Barracks Washington where four of the people who helped save his life -- a CPR-certified civilian who rendered aid to the commandant, his cardiac surgeon, and two emergency services personnel -- will be honored.

Those guests are Timothy LaLonde, who spotted the commandant on the sidewalk and performed CPR; Dr. Thomas MacGillivray, his cardiac surgeon; Lt. Holly O'Byrne and paramedic Ryan Crowell, both of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department.

On Thursday, Timothy; his sister Joyce LaLonde; and her husband, Nathaniel Birnbaum, were awarded the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award at a small ceremony in the commandant's home for responding to the incident last October.

In a press release the same day, the service said that Timothy's experience as a certified CPR instructor was "critical" to the commandant's survival.

"You have really given me a second chance," Smith said, according to The Washington Post, which profiled the ceremony Thursday. "I'm grateful to you."

Smith's cardiac event happened the day of the Marine Corps Marathon, which he did not participate in, but was there to support. The parade Friday is open to the public and will include Marine ceremonies and music.

When Smith returned to the commandant spot earlier this year, he took the reins back from Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant who had been holding both positions since November.

The decision for Smith to return to full duty status was made under the advice of his doctors and after consulting with Department of the Navy leadership, previously reported.

"If you were to have this scenario play out 1,000 times, maybe five people ... would survive it like he did," said MacGillivray, Smith's surgeon, according to the Post. "It's an unusual thing that somebody gets CPR for that long and not just survives it, but is back to normal life within a … few months."

Related: Top Marine Returns to Full Duty Status as Commandant After Cardiac Arrest Last Year

Story Continues