MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. (Apr. 20, 2023) – Tech. Sgt. Clark Badgett, a fuels journeyman with the 134th Logistics Readiness Squadron, started his April weekend off as he had many others before, riding backcountry trails with friends in his off-road rig, which he referred to as a “buggy”. The local offroad park, known to many as “Windrock,” is comprised of approximately 73,000 acres that include over 300 miles of mapped off-road trails ranging from “easy” to “extremely difficult”.
Badgett was riding alone on Sunday afternoon, when he summitted a ridge and noticed two individuals with dirt bikes just ahead of him. One of the men appeared to be laying on the ground beside his bike.
“I was headed toward the top, and went past the overlook, which is a very popular spot for people who go to Windrock,” said Badgett. “I was heading over to the backside of the mountain towards the G9 trail.”
Badgett stated that he knew most of the trails in the area very well and even worked as a trail guide in years past at the park. He estimated that the men were located approximately 12 miles from the park entrance on the trail.
“When I’m riding and come up on a group (or individuals), I will usually wave and give a thumbs up just to see if everybody’s good, see if they need any assistance, and make sure everything is ok,” said Badgett. “I came around a curve and there were two guys with motorcycles. One of them was off of his bike, laying on the ground, and the other guy started waving and yelling, ‘Stop!, Stop!’ ”
Badgett said that he, along with another family who happened to be riding in front of him, pulled in to see what was needed. He wasn’t immediately sure what was ailing the victim. The young man, who was later identified as T.J., was very pale, glassy-eyed and conscious, but moving very little.
“I didn’t know if he had fallen off of his bike, had a wreck, or what the initial problem was,” stated Badgett.
Tyler, the individual who waved down Badgett, explained that the two were riding the trail when his friend started having an issue.
When T.J. started to speak and managed to relay that his chest was hurting very badly and his arms were starting to go numb, Badgett jumped into action as he knew those symptoms more than likely indicated cardiac issues. The young man was suffering a heart attack. He and some of the other individuals loaded the victim into Badgett’s vehicle, and drove back down the mountain toward the entrance of the park as quickly as the terrain would allow him to safely travel. Someone on the scene was able to get minimal cell phone signal and call 911 to make the request for an ambulance to meet Badgett’s vehicle at the park entrance.
T.J.’s wife, Tabbitha, said that T.J. and his best friend, Tyler, were visiting Tennessee from their home state of Michigan, and were taking advantage of an opportunity to ride the off-road trails in the park while in the Volunteer State.
“Clark put him in his rock climber and hauled him down the mountain to get my husband to the ambulance. On the way down my husband said that he told him “If I lose my grip on your hand, you’ve lost me.” So, as our superhero Clark rushed to get him down the mountain, he also kept my husband with us,” stated Tabbitha. “T.J. told me that he would start to fade out, but Clark’s voice was there bringing him back each time.”
Badgett said that he had come across fellow riders and visitors needing assistance in his many off-road excursions at the park over the years, but never had an experience such as this one.
“I made it down faster… way faster, than I ever had before. He (T.J.) dipped in and out of consciousness a couple of times. That was what really spooked me,” said Badgett. “I was driving with one hand, and had my other hand on his wrist and just kept checking to make sure that he had some type of pulse.”
Badgett said that paramedics arrived at the park entrance at almost the same time they did, where they immediately started moving to load T.J. into the ambulance.
“They got him loaded up on the stretcher and I heard one of the EMS members say, ‘we gotta go, now!’”, stated Badgett. “They were phenomenal. They were just as urgent in their duties as I was trying to be in mine. Everybody worked together.”
He had the opportunity to visit T.J. in the hospital afterwards, where he learned that the couple have three children – an 11 year old boy and 6 year old twin girls.
“He was super grateful,” said Badgett. “He told me that they had three children and he just knew that that was it…that he was never going to see his children or his wife again.”
Humbly, he reiterated that it took collaborative actions to get the immediate assistance that T.J. was in dire need of on the mountain.
“Everybody did their part and it all worked out for the best. It was a collective effort from multiple people. Someone made the phone call that I was bringing T.J. off of the mountain, the husband of the family that was there helped load T.J. in the buggy, EMS services met me at the main parking lot,” stated Badgett. “The Windrock security members and ultimately EMS responders for the Oak Ridge area were able to keep him stable enough to make it to the hospital. As for me, I personally feel that our military training to identify and treat life-threatening situations played a key role.”
The family was reunited back in Michigan a few days later, after T.J. was released from the hospital. They were quick to share again that they were very grateful for the life-saving assistance that was rendered during the critical time.
“If it wasn’t for Clark, who wanted nothing in return for giving me everything, I would have lost my husband of almost 13 years that day…I will never forget this man and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for giving me my whole future back…my kids’ father back,” stated Tabbitha.