Face of Defense: New York Sailor Saves High School Student

March 13, 2018

A recruiter assigned to Navy Recruiting District New York jumped into action to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking freshman at Pierson High School here, Oct. 4, 2017.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Bragaglia, a native of Holbrook, New York, and a 2005 graduate of Sachem High School North, was in the hallway outside the school’s cafeteria behind his recruiting table covered with Navy giveaways and informational pamphlets.

Bragaglia does this five to six times a month at Long Island schools within range of his recruiting station to answer questions about the Navy and to discuss possible career options with students. He said he normally answers questions like what he does in the Navy, what boot camp is like and how long he signed up for.

That day started the same with one exception; he happened to be the closest adult within range to a distressed student.


“After talking to a few students, I was behind my table and noticed one of the students came straight to my table and her face was blue; she was pointing to her neck,” Bragaglia recalled. “That’s when I jumped over my table and I asked her, ‘Are you choking?’ and she nodded her head yes.”

Bragaglis, who holds the military occupational specialty of gas turbine systems electrical technician, had received Basic Life Support training three times in the Navy. The last evolution took place one year prior at Naval Hospital Pensacola before Bragaglia reported to New York.

“I got behind her, said, ‘I got you’ and performed the Heimlich maneuver,” Bragaglia said.

The student’s airway was cleared on the second try when the obstruction flew out onto the hallway floor.

Student’s Gratitude

Bragaglia said the freshman thanked him, gave him a hug and then went back to her table and daily school routine. He was in the right place, at the right time and knew exactly what to do.

“I was very confident the training would work, because I’ve seen it done before while I was in boot camp,” Bragaglia said. “One of the sailors in my division was actually choking at a cafeteria visit and one of the recruit division commanders came and gave him the Heimlich maneuver, so I know it works.”

Bragaglia cleaned up the items he knocked over and spoke with some of the school security guards and lunch room chaperones to discuss what happened.

“Petty Officer Bragaglia’s life-saving actions are a prime example of the broad scope of training Navy personnel receive,” said Navy Cmdr. Christian Gaskill, the commanding officer of Navy Recruiting District New York. “I was not surprised to hear that Petty Officer Bragaglia, being in the right place at the right time, had the knowledge and confidence to take action to prevent serious injury or death. I am grateful he is part of our Navy team!”

“Pretty much all the training kicked in, and I knew exactly what to do,” Bragaglia said.