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Fort Drum soldier helps save man's life at restaurant

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Fort Drum soldier helps save man's life at restaurant
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A North Country man is pretty lucky to be alive after he started choking at a Watertown restaurant Thursday afternoon. A Fort Drum soldier rushed over to him, as did a woman from another table. As our Brian Dwyer reports, their fast work saved his life.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. --Thursday afternoon and I was headed out to lunch with a co-worker. We walked into the Crystal Restaurant and saw a man lying on the ground with three people huddled over him. One of those people was Captain J. Branson of Fort Drum's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"Just after I ordered my food, I noticed a disturbance behind me. There was a gentleman that appeared to be choking," Capt. Branson said.

Branson tells us he rushed over to the man and started giving him the Heimlich.

"We were able to get the airway open a little bit," Capt. Branson continued. "I think he was an older gentleman and the stress caused his heart and breathing to stop."

So Branson and another woman at a nearby table started CPR. It didn't seem to be working.

"It was about a minute-and-a-half he had no pulse and no breathing," Capt. Branson described. "I was starting to be very concerned we were going to lose him."

But somehow, after those 90 seconds, the man took a breath.

"I don't know if there's really words to describe it," Branson said. "It was just like, 'Phew. Thank you!' It felt really good to know he wasn't going to die."

"It was amazing to see our patrons and the soldier all come together and help this man and save his life," said Libby Dephtereos, manager at Crystal Restaurant.

A caller told YNN that the unnamed woman, at a nearby table, who helped Branson was Dr. Margot Remington, a retired physician in Watertown. The caller also said that Dr. Remington was having lunch with a pastor, so she believes the soldier, the pastor, and the doctor are all to credit for saving his life.

The man was released from the hospital just a few hours later. We're told he's feeling sore, but otherwise healthy.

"I think any normal person would stop and help somebody that they see in trouble, especially a soldier," Branson said. "It's what we do. Luckily, I was at the right place with the right training to help that gentleman."

Now the reason Branson was at the Crystal in the first place? He was on a lunch date with a special woman. It was their third date. I imagine that's a pretty good early impression.

"I think I'll be getting another date," Capt. Branson said with a big smile on his face.

Branson and his date did get to finish lunch. The Crystal picked up the tab, also doing the same for the woman who helped.

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