After a long day of work, Senior Airman Keith Buckman, 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, returned to his home to get some well-deserved rest. Later that night, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Buckman was awakened by a phone call from his friend, Mark Byrne, a 57-year-old Army veteran.
“He was incoherent, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying,” Buckman said. “He could have been mistaken for being extremely intoxicated, but that wasn’t like him.”
After realizing Byrne was acting out of character, Buckman rushed off to make sure everything was OK.
Buckman was met with a shocking discovery after arriving to Byrne’s motorhome in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s FamCamp.
“He was hunched over the kitchen table, all swollen and red, and drooling all over the table,” Buckman said. “You could tell he was conscious, but not functioning regularly.”
Once Byrne realized Buckman showed up, he tried his hardest to reach out and hand his phone over so Buckman could talk to the security forces personnel whom he was attempting to communicate with.
“I distinctly remember trying to call security forces — they couldn’t understand me either,” Byrne said. “In my mind everything was coming out clear, but apparently I was slurring all of my words.”
Buckman took the phone and calmly conveyed to the law enforcement desk that he wasn’t exactly sure what happened to Byrne, but he needed help immediately.
After waiting a short period of time, Buckman saw the flashing lights of D-M’s security forces vehicles. He realized they didn’t know the exact location of Byrne’s motorhome, so he hastily grabbed a flashlight and began to flag them down.
Doctors determined Byrne suffered from a transient ischemic attack, a stroke-like attack requiring immediate medical attention, which would keep him in the hospital throughout the remainder of the morning.
The attack forced Byrne to leave his 89-year-old father behind, whom he’d been taking care of for some time. During Byrne’s absence, Buckman stepped up and cared for his father that morning while he was in recovery.
“After I made sure his dad was set, I went back to my home and prepared for work and later that day I picked Byrne up from (Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System),” Buckman said.
“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know,” Byrne said. “Without Buckman being as professional and mature as he was, that night could have gone a lot worse.”
Buckman’s swift response, calm attitude under pressure, and willingness to check on a friend in the middle of the night potentially reduced the risk of Byrne suffering from future strokes.