Care in the Air

Shawn Humphrey

It was almost destiny that he’d end up in the skies.

Shawn Humphrey had early exposure to the military — his mom and dad were in the Air Force, both stationed at Offutt Air Force Base near Papillion, Neb., where he grew up. So it was no surprise when he enlisted into the United States Army in 2002, or when he immediately joined the Army National Guard after his Army service ended in 2006. And it made perfect sense when he used his experience as a combat medic to transition into becoming a flight medic — and when he married another flight medic, too.

“We met in the National Guard,” Humphrey said of his wife, Shantel. “She actually became a flight medic first.”

Though Shantel is a full-time Nebraska Army National Guard flight medic, Shawn splits his time between service and deployments with the National Guard and his full-time position as a police officer with the York, Neb. Police Department.

For Shawn, becoming a police officer after his Army service was also a natural transition.

“(During my) tour in Iraq, I got used to going out on patrols every day,” he explained.

It was during one of those very patrols — chasing a suspicious vehicle through the streets of Tal-Afar, Iraq in 2005 — that Shawn earned his Purple Heart.

“It was surreal,” Shawn began, recalling the scene. “At first I didn’t realize what it was. The gunner was shooting at a car when the explosion happened. I thought something happened with the gun, and the next thing I know, I was covered in debris.

“The other vehicle with us kept going, they didn’t realize we were hit. Our vehicle was disabled. No one around. It knocked out the radios, too. It was a good 10 minutes where we were just alone in this town, in a pretty dangerous area.”

Without sustaining life-threatening injuries, Shawn was able to finish his tour and Army service. Today, Shawn and Shantel work to maintain a fine balance between their duties in the National Guard and caring for their family, because for them, working beside their fellow service men, women, and veterans is just another part of life.

“They’re all heroes,” Shawn said. “Every single one of them have done things above and beyond what you could ask for.

“That whole ‘Band of Brothers’ thing, it’s true. It’s one of those bonds that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”

Katy Moore can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.