It was still morning on Nov. 8, 2009, when screams erupted from a stairwell apartment on Patch Barracks.
A few floors above, Army Sgt. Steven Viccaro and Air Force Master Sgt. David Smith were helping to move furniture for a friend.
“All we heard was really loud, screeching screams,” Viccaro said. “It echoed in the stairwell. Closer down to the front door, [a woman] was saying ‘The baby’s not breathing, the baby’s not breathing.’”
Both men ran to the apartment to investigate.
“Steve knocked on the door a couple of times … and decided he was just going to open the door,” Smith said.
Inside, a woman was holding an unconscious infant in her arms, who wasn’t breathing.
“[He] was limp,” Smith said. “She was shaking and screaming.”
Viccaro, then on leave during a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan with the 554th Military Police Company, immediately identified himself as a Military Policeman and asked to see the baby.
“I ran into the bedroom, set the baby on the bed, checked his vital signs and started rescue breathing,” said Viccaro, who worked as a fireman and emergency medical technician for 15 years before he joined the Army. “I wasn’t nervous. I knew what to do. I just did it.”
A few minutes later, the infant started to breathe sporadically.
“The baby never made any expressions, never opened its eyes,” said Smith, who works in the U.S. European Command Headquarters Commandant’s Office, and helped Viccaro by trying to calm the infant’s mother. “What amazed me through the whole thing was how calm and cool he was.”
Inwardly, however, Viccaro, a father of two, was afraid for the child’s life. The child’s parents informed him that the infant had been in and out of the hospital for medical emergencies.
“It felt like forever,” he said. “I was relieved. He was only 2 months old at the time.”
Viccaro continued to talk to the child to get him to respond until a German medical team arrived to take him to the hospital, Smith added.
A few days later, Viccaro heard from the child’s parents. “They told me that the doctor had said that if I didn’t do what I did, the baby wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Ashlee Viccaro, his wife, added that the infant’s parents constantly thank her for her husband’s service that day.
While they were merely neighbors before, “we’re close now,” she added.
Viccaro was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal because “his personal involvement and technical competence resulted in saving the life of a family member,” according to the award citation.
“Sergeant Viccaro’s ability and willingness to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation not only resulted in the preservation of life, but reflects great credit upon him, Headquarters United States European Command and the Department of Defense,” the citation states.
Lt. Col. Lawrence Lobdell, 759th Military Police Battalion commander and Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, 82nd Airborne Division commander, presented him with the award down range in December 2009.
While he is excited to receive such a prestigious award, Viccaro insists that he was simply doing what anyone would do.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I just hope that if there was another person in the same position, they would have done the same thing.”