Army honors 17-year-old from Philly with Medal of Heroism

“The only thing that was really going through my head was that I’ve got to save my family,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Kaheem Bailey-Taylor.

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A military academy student from Philadelphia is making headlines after receiving a JROTC Medal of Heroism from the U.S. Army Cadet Command for helping save the life of a classmate. 

Cadet 2nd Lt. Kaheem Bailey-Taylor, 17, was leaving his cousin’s birthday party in North Philadelphia on Aug. 17 when shots rang out and he sprang into action, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The brave teenager raced back to the house and found four people shot; three were his cousins and one was a fellow student at Philadelphia Military Academy. 

“I ran in there, started assessing, started doing triaging, and I felt as though one of the people that I saved had the most injuries that could be fatal,” said Bailey-Taylor, according to 6abc Action News

Army JROTC Cadet Kaheem Bailey-Taylor was awarded the Medal of Heroism during a ceremony held at Philadelphia Military Academy on January 6, 2023, in Philadelphia, PA. This award is the highest Department of the Army medal exclusively awarded to Army ROTC and JROTC Cadets. The medal is presented to those who perform an act of heroism where the “acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage” are involved. | Photo by Amy Turner, U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

Bailey-Taylor focused on his classmate’s injuries, as they “were potentially fatal, and he needed to be rushed to the hospital ASAP,” he said. His cousins’ wounds were not life-threatening.

“Everybody calls me crazy for going back, but I don’t know what it was. Something in me told me that I had to go and get them,” Bailey-Taylor said, according to the Army website

“The only thing that was really going through my head was that I’ve got to save my family,” he said. 

Bailey-Taylor had learned basic emergency care as part of his JROTC training, and he immediately rendered aid to the injured. The teen used his hoodie to apply pressure to his classmate’s stomach wound.

“I put my fingers inside his wound to stop him from bleeding out,” Bailey-Taylor said. 

As the victim lay bleeding and fading in and out of consciousness, Bailey-Taylor kept talking to keep him alert. 

Army JROTC Cadet 2nd Lt.Kaheem Bailey-Taylor addresses the audience after receiving the Army Medal of Heroism. (Photo: Amy Turner, U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs / flickr)

“He said, ‘Bailey-Taylor, please don’t let me die.’ That message will always stay with me,” the cadet recalled of the harrowing moment. “It was somebody that I look at as an older brother.”

According to The Inquirer, his fellow student survived the shooting and is back at school, on track to graduate.

A 17-year-old male was arrested in December in connection with the shooting, according to news reports.

Bailey-Taylor’s swift action led to the honor he received for potentially saving his friend’s life. He was presented with the Medal of Heroism last Friday. The award recognizes JROTC cadets who demonstrate acts of heroism, according to the Army.

“The act must result in an accomplishment so exceptional/outstanding as to set a Cadet apart,” its press release states, “and involve acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities.”

“It’s the highest award given in JROTC,” said Commandant LTC Russell Gallagher, the Philadelphia Military Academy instructor who nominated Bailey-Taylor for the honor, according to 6abc Action News. 

“Even if he had not earned this medal,” Gallagher said of the teen, The Inquirer reports, “he would still be a rare student.” 

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