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South Korea-based soldier to be honored for saving girl from dog attack

Aerial photo of Camp Humphreys in South Korea. (U.S. Army/Released)
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A soldier with the 2nd Infantry Division will be recognized Thursday by the city of Pyeongtaek for diverting an aggressive dog away from a Korean girl and taking the brunt of the canine’s attack.

After the Feb. 12 attack, Spc. Jonathan Roman Rios received preventative rabies treatment after the attack at Master Sgt. Henry L. Jenkins Patient Centered Medical Home on Camp Humphreys.

The dog — described by Roman as a white, medium-sized husky — fixated on a Korean woman and a young girl on the street outside the camp pedestrian gate, he said.

Roman, a native of Puerto Rico assigned to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, had just gotten off duty for the day and was headed to a barbecue with friends when he noticed the dog barking at the woman and girl.

“I just saw a dog, but I saw that he was acting crazy,” he told Stars and Stripes on Monday. “I thought maybe he was just playing, but as I got closer I could see he was mad and agitated.”

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Roman, the father of two children, believed the girl was in danger and said he felt he had to act.

He described what happened next:

Using his backpack as a decoy, Roman managed to attract the dog’s attention. It bit into the pack and hung on while the woman and girl ran off.

Roman fought with the dog for several minutes, trying to retrieve his backpack in one piece and make a run for it. He also shouted to nearby pedestrians to get back. Then the dog struck.

“The dog was either too fast or I was too slow, but he bit into the backside of my leg just below the calf muscle,” he said.

Another woman nearby saw the attack and began screaming; Roman said he quickly tried to calm her.

He used his backpack once more to push the dog away and escaped. Putting a brick fence between himself and the dog, he warned other pedestrians to stay away.

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Roman said someone who may have been the dog’s owner came and secured the animal to a chain.

He said he received rabies shots — standard treatment after dog bites — every four or five days for three weeks. His bite wounds were the size of half-dollars.

Col. Brian Watkins, commander of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, lauded Roman for his actions that day.

“The evidence of a Soldier’s personal courage is in the actions they make, whether on or off duty,” he said in an emailed statement.” SPC Roman is the true representation of [U.S. Forces Korea] and [South Korean] spirit of Katchi Kapshida! (We go together!)”

Pyeongtaek city officials notified the division that Roman would be recognized for his actions at a ceremony at the mayor’s office.

“People ask me why I did what I did; I was just taking care of others,” Roman said. “I feel so honored.”

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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