Hundreds of Kiona-Benton high and middle school students gathered to thank veterans Thursday.
High school junior Connor Baumgartner Jr. wanted to thank one soldier in particular — the one that helped save his life.
Sgt. 1st Class Joe Wysock and Connor reunited with a hug at the school’s annual Veterans Day assembly.
The teen was playing volleyball outside the school on June 13 when he accidentally cut himself — at the same time Wysock and recruiters from the Kennewick National Guard office were visiting.
“I was working the day before, with my father, and I had no clothes to change into at his house,” Connor explained said. “So I slept on the couch (and) went to school the next morning wearing my work clothes.”
Connor forgot about the knife in his pocket, he said. As he crouched to dig for the ball, he brought his wrists parallel to his pockets.
“I came up like this, snagged the clip of the pocket knife, pulled open an artery, hit the ball, and then sat there and went, ‘Oh,’” Connor said.
Wysock saw Connor go down, and rushed to help.
“There was blood everywhere,” Wysock said. “So I just helped him out.”
The sergeant told Connor to sit down and began administering first aid. He placed pressure on the wound, raised the boy’s arm and treated him for shock.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, credited Wysock for saving Connor’s life and hand. Klippert is a Benton County sheriff’s deputy and the school resource officer — when he responded to the emergency, he found Wysock treating Connor’s injury.
“Wysock had done everything that needed to be done,” Klippert said. “He responded so appropriately and so quickly.”
While he presented Wysock with the school’s Ring of Honor award, Klippert told the audience he was at Kadlec Regional Medical Center when the doctor told Connor and his mother that reconnecting the artery was similar to remolding a wet noodle.
“He was concerned that may or may not happen, and he was concerned that you may or may not lose your hand,” Klippert said to Connor during the assembly.
After the ceremony, Wysock asked Connor whether he had a scar. He revealed a roughly 2-inch long red mark on his arm.
The surgery left him without feeling in his thumb, Connor said.
In Klippert’s 17 years as a resource officer, he hadn’t witnessed a soldier help save a student’s life, and it led him to recommend Wysock for the Ring of Honor award.
The school award is for a member or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces and presented during the annual Veterans Day assembly.
“When you do a life-saving measure like that, it’s important that you be recognized,” he said. “This year, I went to (the leadership class) with this story, and I said, ‘It’s up to you. You can do whatever you chose to do.’”
The leadership class decided to present Wysock with the award.
“We want to recognize another heroic soldier for doing his job,” Klippert said.
Connor said he was grateful Wysock acted quickly and knew what to do.
“It’s a great privilege,” the soldier said about getting the award. “I’m very honored.”