Marine Corps Sgt. John James was at a barbeque with friends in November in Okinawa, Japan, where he is stationed, when all of a sudden the group heard the cries of a local elderly woman.
“We were grilling burgers and hot dogs at the saloon bar, and suddenly we heard an elderly woman screaming in a language we didn’t understand,” James said in a Marine Corps release. “We didn’t know what was wrong until she started screaming out ‘habu, habu.’”
Okinawa is home to four poisonous snakes — including the habu. As a result, James sprung into action and employed a belt as a tourniquet several inches above the snake bite, while also eliciting the help of another service member. Additionally, the saloon owner contacted emergency services to further assist.
Once local authorities arrived, they found the snake to administer the proper anti-venom for the bite. The woman’s life was saved — thanks to James’ swift response, according to emergency medical providers.
James, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2012, is assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, as a motor vehicle operator, and previously was with the Marine Security Guard program that guards U.S. embassies. That’s where he learned the skills he used to save the woman’s life, he said.
“We did medical training once every week for three years for embassy attack training, and a lot of the training goes into how to apply a tourniquet or do CPR,” James said.
Additionally, this wasn’t James’ first rendezvous with a snake. In fact, James was bitten by a bull snake as a small child on his family’s farm in Dubois, Nebraska.
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“It’s just something that happens back home,” James said.
As for the elderly woman, she is in good health and was recently in contact with James.
“I didn’t know if I was ever going to hear from her, but I just talked to her this past weekend, and she’s doing really well,” James said. “I think she went back to work about two to three days after the incident.”