Navy Corpsman Helps Save Woman After Shootout

Joshua Whatman was only a boy riding in his father's truck when they came upon a crash involving a little girl who was wounded in the neck by glass.

"I'll never forget how utterly helpless I felt," he said. "I never wanted to feel that way again."

He would not be in that position a second time.

Whatman, 25, is now a Navy corpsman who has deployed numerous times, attached to Marine and Navy construction battalions and now assigned to Naval Hospital Jacksonville.

Whatman was returning from a deployment to Africa last year. Stationed in Gulfport, Miss., he and his two sisters decided to celebrate with a trip to New Orleans.

"They said, 'Let's go have some fun and blow off some steam from your deployment,'" Whatman said. "So we went down there and we were all just hanging out."

The siblings met up with mutual friends who were there from a bachelorette party in the pre-dawn hours of June 29, 2014, when Whatman made a fateful decision.

"When it all happened at about 2:40 a.m., two of the girls wanted to go back to the hotel so I walked them back and my sister stayed with the group," he said. "I walked both those girls back and when I was walking up a side street, back up to Bourbon Street, the gunshots went off."

Whatman ran toward the sound of the gunfire.

"I just took off running up there and that's when I found Amy right there on the side of the road."

Amy Matthews had been struck in the face by a gunshot.

The 21-year-old college graduate from Perth, Australia, was visiting New Orleans on vacation.

Another service member, Gunnery Sgt. Will McDaniels, had just gotten to Amy and was holding her in his arms.

What he found was a young woman whose face had been devastated by a bullet.

Amy had several teeth and much of her gum tissue knocked out by the bullet. Her pallate was fractured in four places.

"On my initial assessment, she was hemorrhaging from the mouth and down her jaw line," Whatman said. "The only thing I had that I could use as a pressure dressing was my T-shirt, so I took it off and kind of packed it in the wound."

The shooting rocked the Big Easy as 10 people were shot, one fatally, on the well-known strip.

"I remember being upset," Whatman said. "The biggest reason was because this was an innocent girl and it isn't something she should encounter on the streets of the United States -- which is the greatest country on Earth.

"In combat it's different because you know what you're going there to do, but to see an innocent bystander injured is very upsetting."

About half an hour later, Whatman and McDaniels handed Matthews off to EMS crews.

"I asked the medics where they were taking her because I promised Amy that I'd come check on her at the hospital," he said. "The next morning, my sister and I went to the emergency room."

Matthews has since been discharged from the hospital and is back in Australia. She and Whatman still talk on Facebook every week, he said.

One person has been arrested in the shooting, while police still hunt for others.

Whatman, not currently deployed, spends his days seeing sailors at Naval Hospital Jacksonville's primary care clinic. He has hopes of becoming an independent duty corpsman, serving with special operations.

"I'm just happy, not only that I was there when it happened, but also that Navy medicine taught me how to respond to it," he said.