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Nate Lund and his wife, Christine

Nate Lund and his wife, Christine, were presented their awards at a special ceremony on May 1.

U student wins medal for bravery

Dental student Nate Lund honored with top Army award for rescue efforts following bridge collapse

By Nick Hanson

May 2, 2008

Just moments after Nate Lund and his wife Christine heard that the I-35W bridge had collapsed August 1 of last year, they jumped in their car and began racing toward the disaster from their Roseville home with medical supplies in hand.

Ten minutes later they were at the scene of the tragedy taking a boat across the Mississippi river to a medical loading site. It didn't take long before they realized the severity of the situation--watching people wander aimlessly about the wreckage and others trying to crawl out of crushed cars.

Nate, a fourth-year University of Minnesota dental student, and Christine, a nurse who graduated from the University of Minnesota, helped victims any way they could.

They wrapped bandages around cuts and treated wounds. They recorded vital signs of those who survived the fall. They put their lives at risk by recovering victims from wreckage and then assisting with evacuation. And for victims they couldn't physically aid--those with internal bleeding, broken bones, or worse--Nate and Christine simply comforted with words and prayer.

That courage, heroism, and selfless action earned Nate the Soldier's Medal, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Army. The award was presented Thursday during a special ceremony at the University of Minnesota attended by family, friends, classmates, and many other supporters.

"I will tell those of you who are without an Army background, this is a big deal," Czerw said. "I'm not sure that you could find a better example of putting others above yourself."

Requirements for the Soldier's Medal include putting one's self in personal hazard or danger, and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving military conflict. Christine was also honored with a special award from the Army for her valiant efforts after the collapse.

"There are images you'll never forget, sort of like playing a movie over in your head," said Lund, a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Christine had similar sentiments. "I remember a lot of people and their faces, but some of it is just a blur because there was so much happening so fast," she said.

While they may never forget the incident, neither would think twice about doing the exact same thing over again, they said.

Recipients of the award must fulfill a stringent set of criteria, said Major General Russell Czerw, commander of Fort Sam Houston and the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, who traveled to Minnesota to present the award. Only three people have received it in the last three years.

"I will tell those of you who are without an Army background, this is a big deal," Czerw said. "I'm not sure that you could find a better example of putting others above yourself."

He also credited the University of Minnesota and its dental school for instilling the value of selflessness and civic duty in its students. "You have a wonderful institution," Czerw said. "Lieutenant Lund's character is a great reflection of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry."

It's an honor to have had Lund attend the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, added Dean Patrick Lloyd.

He said Lund's ability to help victims is a true testament to the importance of a dental student's inter-professional education alongside medical school colleagues in basic courses such as anatomy.

"It's important that dental students have a well-rounded education," Lloyd said. "Whether it's on the banks of the Mississippi or chair-side in a dental office, you never know what type of medical situation may arise or if you're going to need to draw on that comprehensive education provided by the dental school."