ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Living up to the Coast Guard’s motto of Semper Paratus, Always Ready, can mean many things to Coast Guard men and women. On a daily basis, being Semper Paratus is about executing the mission, whether saving lives, defending the nation or protecting the environment.
As an aviation maintenance technician, Petty Officer 1st Class Pablo LaGarde is ready at all times to keep a fleet of airplanes equipped to execute demanding missions. Assigned to Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., LaGarde performs a multitude of tasks from metalsmithing and inspections to tire changes and repairs.
For LaGarde, Semper Paratus usually involves keeping the Coast Guard airborne. But one summer’s day, LaGarde found himself ready to save a life.
Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City is one of the busiest air stations in the Coast Guard and was commissioned Aug. 15, 1940.
It started as a typical beach day with the kids. After everyone had more than their fill of the sun and sand, LaGarde arrived home only to notice a commotion in his neighborhood. His neighbor’s girlfriend was franticly running over to a neighbor’s house. Another neighbor called out to LaGarde and asked if he knew CPR.
“Right then, I knew there was someone in trouble inside the home. I instantly dropped what I was doing and made my way over to the home,” recalled LaGarde.
When he entered the home, LaGarde found his neighbor laying in a recliner barely breathing. Able to verify a weak pulse, LaGarde then checked his neighbor’s airway to ensure it was clear of any obstructions. Despite nothing blocking the airway, his neighbor went from taking a forceful breath approximately every 40 seconds, to nothing.
“At this point I knew that we were going to have to get him out of his recliner and [lay him] flat on the ground,” recalled LaGarde.
Once his neighbor was out of the recliner, it became apparent the victim was no longer breathing due to the blue coloration in his face. LaGarde began to perform CPR.
Enlisting the victim’s girlfriend to assist with the breathing, LaGarde provided CPR for 20 minutes.
When EMTs arrived, they immediately got to work with one providing medication through a needle in the victim’s leg while the other started hooking up equipment to provide electrical shock.
Despite providing CPR for 20 minutes, LaGarde still wanted to help and asked if there was anything he could do. A member of the emergency team handed LaGarde the oxygen mask and asked him to hold it over the victims mouth and provide a pump every 30 seconds.
Maintenance is required on all Coast Guard aircraft based on the number of hours flown to keep the aircraft in good working order. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Eventually they were able to re-establish a pulse and LaGarde’s neighbor was taken away. His neighbor was in critical but stable condition due to the actions of LaGarde and his fellow neighbors.
“AMT1 LaGarde is a reliable and trusted shipmate that would help anyone if needed, and proved beneficial when he helped save his neighbor’s life,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer David Tobias, LaGarde’s rating manager at the air station. “He always does the right thing, which is a great example for junior personnel to follow.”
Always ready to do the right thing. Always ready to save a life.