University of Minnesota Dental Student Receives Army's Prestigious Soldier's Medal

Nathan Lund Recognized for Heroism in Rescue Efforts During I35W Bridge Collapse

On May 1, 2008, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry student Nate Lund was the recipient of a rare honor: He received the Soldier's Medal in recognition of his work rescuing victims during the I-35W Bridge collapse. This award is presented by the United States Army, and was created to honor individual acts of heroism.

Lund, a fourth-year dental student, and his wife Christine, a registered nurse, were among the first volunteers to respond to the news of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse on August 1, 2007. "We grabbed our medical supplies, stethoscopes and ran as fast as we could to the car," Nate Lund told ABC News. The couple then boated to the scene of the accident and assisted in the evacuation of the victims, as well as provided medical assistance.

"I'm honored and humbled," Lund told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "To get recognized by the Army for something they consider heroic means an awful lot. But myself, I guess I don't really think of it as all that heroic. It was just the right thing to do."

School of Dentistry Dean Patrick Lloyd, in an interview with the Duluth News Tribune, said Lund’s experience is a good example of why dental students should have a well-rounded medical education. “Whether the emergency occurs on the shores of the Mississippi or in a dental office, you never know when you’re going to need the extra education,” he said.

Lund told the News Tribune that "he used what he remembered from an anatomy course dental students take with their medical counterparts to help him assess the injuries of the 'six or seven' people he treated."

Lund was awarded at a noontime ceremony at the University of Minnesota's Mayo Memorial Auditorium. A Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, he will be commissioned as an officer in the Army later this summer. Only three Soldier's Medals have been given to medical officers in the last three years. Major General Russell J. Czerw, commander of Fort Sam Houston and the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, traveled to Minnesota to present the award.

Dean Lloyd spoke first at the event. He recalled the weeks long media coverage included an ABC News Story on August 7 that featured Nate and Christine Lund as its "Persons of the Week." At the time, Lloyd was away from campus attending a meeting of dental school deans. He told about being approached the next morning by the other dental school deans who had seen the news and asked, "Did you see your school on television? Did you see what one of your students did?"

"It's a proud moment for all of us," Dean Lloyd said.

Dean Lloyd was followed by General Czerw, who began by saying "For those of you who are not familiar with this award, it's a very big deal." He then discussed an expression that originated in the U.S. Calvary: "Ride toward the sound of gunfire," which he explained means that soldiers should direct themselves to the center of the action, where they can do the most good, despite personal risk. "On August 1, 2007, Nathan Lund rode toward the sound of the gunfire." General Czerw also addressed several comments to the assembled dentistal students: "At some time or another, being a dentist will be the most fun you have had in your life," he told them.

Christine Lund was then given a Star Note Citation in honor of her heroism, and the ceremony concluded with the presentation of the Soldier’s Medal to Nathan Lund. The citation from the President of the United States of America read, in part: "Despite smoke, dust, exploding vehicles, and tons of hanging debris, Second Lieutenant Lund traversed these hazards in a valiant search for and rescue of critically injured survivors."

Past recipients of the award include Colin Powell, who was awarded one for heroism following a helicopter crash in Vietnam, as well as personnel of the Pentagon who risked their lives to assist their coworkers after the attack on September 11, 2001.

Read more: Nate Lund's story on ABC News; in the Pioneer Press; in the Duluth News Tribune; on KTTC; on MPR; on the ADA Web page; and in the Minnesota Daily.

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