Two men, credited with saving the lives of strangers, will be honored during Friday’s Nebraska-Iowa football game in Lincoln. The recognition of “citizen heroes” from each state has become a halftime tradition in the annual battle between the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes.
Red Cross spokesman Mark Tauscheck says this year’s Nebraska hero is 26-year-old Geoffrey Bennett, a soldier in the Army National Guard, who moved with his family to Norfolk, Nebraska from Illinois as a teenager.
Bennett was driving through Omaha last December, in a snowstorm, when he stopped to help an injured woman near her broken-down car.
“When she was outside of her vehicle, she was hit by a passing vehicle,” he says. “The road conditions were really bad and she had severe injuries. She was hurt really badly in her lower body and had to have one leg eventually amputated.”
The 34-year-old woman was been critically injured and likely wouldn’t have survived without Bennett’s help.
“(Bennett) showed up and saw how bad she was bleeding. He used his own belt as a tourniquet on her leg to slow the bleeding down. Authorities credit him with saving her life,” Tauscheck said.
Bennett stayed with the woman and her friend, a 28-year-old man who was also badly injured, until an ambulance arrived.
Bennett graduated from high school in Norfolk before attending Morningside College in Sioux City where he was a pitcher on the baseball team. Bennett joined the Army National Guard in 2011. He recently started a new job as a technician at Camp Dodge in Johnston (Iowa). He previously served as perimeter security guard at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.
This year’s Iowa honoree is 40-year-old Jerry Goeders of Dayton. Goeders and his family were at Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa this summer when they heard a girl screaming across the lake. She was struggling in the water with no one near her to help.
“She was only about 15 feet from the shore, but she could not touch and was flailing and struggling to keep her head above water,” Tauscheck said. “Jerry Goeders’ wife, Stacey, said ‘You’ve got to go.’ So, Jerry took off running down the hill and jumped in and Stacey said her husband swam for probably four minutes or so to get to her. He was pretty exhausted by the time he got to her.”
Goeders grabbed the girl, 8-year-old Jersie Ostino, and got her safely to shore.
“He said he’ll never forget getting his foot to a rock and feeling that rock with his big toe,” Tauscheck said. “He said that’s when he knew he and the girl were going to be okay, but it was a very frightening experience for him as well.”
Earlier this year, fans of both schools were invited to nominate residents of Iowa and Nebraska for this “Citizen Hero” award. Staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross selected the winners.
Goeders, Bennett and members of their families will be guests of the Hawkeyes and Huskers at Friday’s game and will participate in a variety of special pregame activities. They’ll be honored on-field at halftime.