Airman Helps Man with Dementia in Newington, New Hampshire

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Victoria Nelson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

A New Hampshire Guardsman with the 157th Air Refueling Wing was driving down Shattuck Road, a dark and winding back road alongside the Piscataqua River, when she saw a man walking towards the water on her way to the gym at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 3, 2024.

“I saw a man walking in the breakdown lane next to the sidewalk without any reflective clothing,” recalled Tech. Sgt. Yvonne Bartoszak, a member of the traffic management office with the 157th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “It was definitely below freezing, it was dark, and I couldn’t tell if he had a jacket on.”

“I saw his truck a little way up the road on the sidewalk with no lights on,” she continued. “Something didn’t seem right, so I turned around to ask if he needed help.”

The older gentleman told Bartoszak he was going to see family, but his truck stopped working. She offered to drive him to the gas station and call for a tow truck.

“When the tow truck got there, we went to try to start the car but nothing, no lights, no sound, nothing,” she said. “So the tow driver and I walked around the car and saw that he had jumped the curb, punctured stuff in his engine bay and blew out his passenger side tire.”

Bartoszak called the Newington police, who ran the gentleman’s license and contacted his son.

“His son told us he had dementia,” said Capt. Brandon Smart, the Newington police officer who responded to the scene. “It was very cold, and we are extremely lucky that she stopped and found him when she did.”

“He kept trying to tell us that he wanted to go over the bridge to the Dover side where he had family, which he doesn’t,” Smart said. “That walking path over the river has been shut down for quite a while. Had she not found him who knows where he would have ended up.”

Bartoszak’s leadership said they were not surprised to hear she took the time to help.

“Most people would have just driven by,” said Maj. Aaron McCarthy, the 157th Logistics Readiness Operations Officer. “I know she’s the type of person that goes above and beyond because she does it here every day. Bartoszak consistently works hard and puts in the extra thought. This just shows she has a big heart too. She really took the time to stop and care and that made an impact.”

“I’m really proud to know her and to work with her,” he said.

Bartoszak said she considered driving past, but her parents always stopped to help if they could.

“It was dark and early and there was no one around so I was nervous,” she said. “But something was just not right and if I could help him jump his car or get to the gas station it felt like the right thing to do.”

Her intuition and kindness saved the gentleman from additional harm and brought him back to his family.

“I was just glad to help,” Bartoszak said. “I’m really glad I turned around.”