Officer Wes Foster, right, with the Charleston, S.C., Police Department, thanks former Staff Sgt. Jeffery Aldana for saving his life. Aldana saw Foster get hit by a car while he was directing traffic and jumped out of his car to treat Foster and then directed traffic while others tended to Foster. Aldana was named Charleston Police Department Citizen of the Year on Feb. 1. (Courtesy of Jim Mossman)
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Former staff sergeant Jeffery Aldana's young son wanted to go to the beach before his dad deployed to Southwest Asia for six months in April.
That's how the then-security forces airman at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., ended up at the scene of a crash that might have taken the life of a Charleston, S.C., police officer if not for Aldana's quick action.
The family was headed back from the beach after dark when they came upon officer Wes Foster, who was directing traffic from an earlier accident.
"I was looking for direction," Aldana recalled. "I was staring at him the whole time. Not even two minutes after that, I saw the SUV approaching."
It never slowed down, he said. The vehicle struck the officer head-on.
Aldana still remembers the sound of the impact like two cars crashing. "He flew pretty far. He landed about 15 feet away from my vehicle."
Aldana said he didn't even really think about what he did next. He just flew into action. "I got over there and stabilized his neck. He was unconscious when I got to him. I started talking to him, telling him everything was going to be all right. He came to it after about three to four minutes. By that time, another officer had run over to us and started helping out."
Aldana took over directing traffic. When more help arrived, he got into his car with his family and continued home. He never told anyone his name. A few days later, Aldana deployed. His wife, Michelle, sent him regular updates from the news. Foster had suffered a fractured skull, among other injuries. Meanwhile, Michelle contacted the police department. "They were looking for me, wondering who it was," Aldana said. "I wasn't in it for anything. I don't seek recognition."
But he got it: On Feb. 1, the Charleston Police Department named him Citizen of the Year. In a ceremony, Aldana met the man whose life he helped to save. The two men's children both have a son and a daughter close in age played together.
"It was kind of like meeting a hero," Aldana said.
"The doctors said they didn't know what (Aldana) did, but whatever it was kept me from having permanent brain damage," Foster said in an Air Force story.
Aldana has since separated from the military. He's attending college full-time, pursuing a degree in information technology.
Foster went back to regular duty in December. The men have stayed in touch since the ceremony.
"We're going down there pretty soon to meet up again," Aldana said.