Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Just give the kid his Burger, or maybe next time he won't tie that tourniquet

Soldier lauded, put fast action over fast food

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jan 8, 2008 5:44:50 EST

All Spc. Gerry DeNardi wanted was a Whopper.

But when he went to a Burger King stand at Forward Operating Base Taji in Iraq on Aug. 15, he spent his lunch break bandaging Army and Air Force Exchange Service employees injured in a mortar attack smack in the middle of the outdoor food court.

DeNardi had just ordered his burger when “me and all of Burger King went flying,” he said. He ran for a shelter, but when he heard a cry for help, he returned to the food court. There, he tended AAFES civilian workers, using his own shirt as a bandage and applying a tourniquet to blast wounds.

Brig. Gen. Keith Thurgood, AAFES commander, said his employees face the same dangers as the troops when they deploy.

“I take a particular interest in anything that impacts their health and safety,” he said. “When I read in the Army Times how this soldier put his own safety aside in the middle of a mortar attack to rush to the aid of some of my folks, I felt he needed to hear from me personally about how much I appreciated his heroic actions,” Thurgood said.

While DeNardi was home on leave in Connecticut, Thurgood and James Weiderkehr, senior food services business chief for AAFES Pacific, took DeNardi out for a steak dinner at a New Haven restaurant.

“It was the restaurant that serves $50 steaks,” DeNardi said, laughing about the surreal situation. “It was a good time — a good meal.”

DeNardi received a plaque honoring his willingness to leave the safety of the bunker and act as a first responder.

DeNardi said Thurgood wanted to know what was going through his head when he started administering IVs, using his own shirt as a bandage and applying a tourniquet to blast wounds.

“I wanted a Whopper,” DeNardi replied. “I was just hungry.”

The day after the attack, DeNardi went back to Burger King with the receipt for the hamburger he never received, but “they wouldn’t give me my burger,” DeNardi said.

At their dinner, Thurgood told DeNardi his first thought when he found out about that was: “Tell me we did not do this to one of our soldiers.”

DeNardi said Weiderkehr gave him “like a hundred free Burger King coupons.”

“Rubbing shoulders with these American heroes is humbling and inspiring, and to serve them is an honor,” Thurgood said. “Specialist DeNardi represents what’s best about America and our Army. You can count on [him] and a thousand others like him to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

“I just hope next time, we give him his burger.”

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