What does it mean to be a hero? It's a question often pondered but rarely answered the same way. For some people a hero is someone who wears a cape and lives in between the pages of their favorite comic strip. For others a hero is their loved one who dons a badge, constantly ready to hit the night watch. But for others the answer is much simpler, it was the person who was ready to do the right thing in the right place at the right time.


Future Sailor Jessica Kohlgraf is one of the heroes that falls into that category.


While boarding the bus to the YMCA where she lifeguards, the Colorado Springs, Colo., native had no idea that for a complete stranger she would become that person who was ready to do the right thing in the right place at the right time.


Before departing the bus station, Kohlgraf had her attention drawn to an elderly man who had fallen at the terminal and hit his head on a mounted screw that secured the metal bench to the pavement. As blood was pouring profusely from a gash on the semi-conscious man's forehead, Kohlgraf noticed that all the bystanders were staring at the man without taking action.


Without a moment's hesitation, Kohlgraf sprung to action as she darted from the parked bus and immediately took charge of the situation. Clearing the area, she used a jacket to put pressure on the wound. An employee called 9-1-1 and the employee repeated all of Kohlgraf's directions to the emergency response operator. She was passed a roll of gauze which she quickly used to bind the wound.


"It all happened so fast," said Kohlgraf. "I'm so glad my first aid training and timing allowed me to be the first responder. Even with my Red Cross lifesaving certifications and lifeguard experience, I felt my heart pounding and my hands shaking. I knew from the response of the others surrounding the victim that I needed to take charge of the situation to stabilize this man's condition before the EMT's arrived."


The Emergency Medical Technicians arrived minutes later from the fire station located a few blocks away. They thanked her for her actions, took control of the situation and the accident victim was placed in the ambulance to be taken to the hospital.


Kohlgraf's quick thinking made a big impression on her recruiter Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Rodgers.


"I am extremely proud of our Future Sailor and look forward to seeing the great success that I anticipate she will have in the fleet."


Never one to shy away from a challenge, the Palmer High School graduate has been pushing herself to excel ever since freshman year. After joining the swim team, without knowing how to swim, Kohlgraf was selected as team captain by her senior year. In addition to succeeding athletically, she also rose to the top academically as well. Finishing in the top 10 percent of her graduating class, Kohlgraf was also selected to the National Honor Society.


Kohlgraf looks to take her next challenge head on as she is currently selected to enter specialized training in the Navy's Advanced Electronics Field.


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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)