Former Army sergeant has knack for heroism; twice he saved a life

Heroism seems to come second-nature to Ronald G. Wilson.

Twice in his life - once in 1981 and again last month - Brother Wilson combined his army first-aid/CPR training and cool presence of mind to save the lives of injured auto accident victims.Now a member of the Bountiful 13th Ward, Bountiful Utah North Stake, Brother Wilson had not yet joined the Church at the time of the first incident on March 25, 1981. He was baptized a few months later. (See Church News, Oct. 16, 1982.)

He was serving his third tour of duty in Frankfurt, Germany, as a sergeant 1st class in the U.S. Army. He had spent four years in Vietnam as a member of Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne Division.

"I was on my way home from work, and it was raining really hard," Brother Wilson recalled in a recent interview.

Rounding a corner, he observed a man in the road who had been struck by a car, "dead for all practical purposes."

Brother Wilson, stopped, administered first-aid and CPR, and got the man breathing until help arrived.

"As far as I know, he is still alive today," Brother Wilson said.

Ronald Wilson himself underwent a rescue of a different kind nine months later, the spiritual kind.

"My wife Cheryl had been a member of the Church since 1964," he said. She joined at age 14 in Australia, her native land.

Brother Wilson, who had no previous religious affiliation, said he had used alcohol heavily, although he had not had a drink in over a year.

"Either the Spirit touched me, or I noticed something missing in my life; I don't know what it was," he said. "I talked to army chaplains and went to various counseling sessions, but I couldn't fill the void. I needed something but couldn't find it."

One night the Wilsons stayed up late talking. He asked her about her church, a topic they had never discussed before.

"It was 10 at night, and I telephoned the mission president, Keith McMullin, who is now managing director of Church Welfare Services. Within 20 minutes he had two missionaries at our house."

Hungry for the instruction the missionaries had to offer, he kept a pad and pencil at his bedside so he could jot down questions as they occurred to him in the night.

"I read the Book of Mormon, knew it was right and went from there," he reflected.

Later, they moved to the Salt Lake City area, where he is now employed as a forklift operator at a bishops' storehouse. Sister Wilson's parents also moved to Salt Lake City recently.

On Sept. 3, Brother Wilson, his wife and father-in-law were in a truck headed south on I-15 north of the downtown area. He saw a car ahead of them lose control, flip onto its side, skid across the freeway and roll.

"I saw something come out of the car," he said. "I didn't know what it was. I pulled up to the side of the road, told Cheryl to take the wheel and ran up to the wreck.

"What I saw come out of the car I have to assume was a 2-year-old baby. He had hit the side of the divider in the road abutment and was not breathing or moving. I started to give him mouth-to-mouth and massage his chest."

Shortly, another bystander took over on the heart massage, and soon, paramedics arrived and began to render treatment.

This time, the help Brother Wilson rendered extended beyond first-aid and CPR. At the hospital the child's great-grandfather, Chester Woolley, asked Brother Wilson to help him administer and to give a priesthood blessing to the toddler, Christian Holets. In the blessing, Brother Wilson felt impressed to say the child would not die but would get well.

During the weeks of Christian's convalescence, the Wilsons have visited him frequently and have been in close touch with his grandmother, Georgia Woolley; and have met his mother, Jennifer Holets. Sister Wilson said the child is doing well.

Although Brother Wilson was featured in news stories for his acts of heroism and was honored with an army medal for the 1981 incident, he does not seek recognition, his wife said.

The propensity to render aid when needed is instinctive with him, Sister Wilson said.

"The Lord has given him not just the ability, but the presence of mind to use it when necessary," she added. "He has the ability to let the Lord guide him and do what needs to be done, and not really think about it until later. The Lord has blessed him with that gift and seems to put him in the right place at the right time. He does not take any credit for it himself, but knows that it seems to be something the Lord wants him to do."

She said her parents, who have not yet joined the Church, have gained a greater appreciation for LDS beliefs through the recent incident.

"My father stands in awe of what happened," she said. "The blessing Ron gave the baby has been a real faith builder for us."

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