Air Force Staff Sgt. Kenneth DeLongchamp on Friday received an honor normally reserved for those who display valor in military service for his heroics during the mass shooting on the Strip on Oct. 1, 2017.
After getting out of the line of fire with friends and family that night as a gunman rained bullets onto the Route 91 country music concert from the Mandalay Bay resort, DeLongchamp returned to lead others to safety, including one young woman with a bullet wound in the head whose face haunts him to this day.
Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, head of the Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, said the Airman’s Medal is presented for voluntary risk of life of heroism in the service, adding that it’s a rarity for it to be presented for nonservice-related action.
“As we remember and we honor the people that were injured and killed that day, that we also have heroes right here at Nellis and the community that we can remember and we can recognize,” Holmes said during the award ceremony. “On the worst day of many people’s lives, with the choice between running away from the carnage and running toward it, our airman ran toward it.”
DeLongchamp, who will depart Nellis Air Force Base for a new assignment shortly, said in an interview afterward that the events of Oct. 1 are still vivid in his mind.
He was with his parents, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle and girlfriend at Route 91, a concert they’d been to in the past. They were in front of the stage watching Jason Aldean when the shooting began. He made sure they got out of the venue before he went back to help others.
“The next thing you know he was gone. I didn’t know if he had been hurt; I was hoping he was helping people,” his father, Ken, said. “He just reacted. It was his training, but you have to have that in you anyway. We could not be any more proud.”
DeLongchamp said his training kicked in as he dashed back across the concert grounds, then began leading people from cover to cover to get away from the gunfire.
Once outside the grounds but still within range of the gunman, he called for medics and used his body to shield the wounded as they were being treated. He flagged down passing speeding cars and persuaded drivers to transport victims to hospitals, and directed numerous others to safety.
His most vivid memory is of the girl with a blood-soaked T-shirt wrapped around a bullet wound on her head.
“I wish for the life of me I could remember her name,” he said. “The way she looked at me calmly, it was as if she was saying, ‘Help me; please don’t let me die here.’”
DeLongchamp said he got her to safety and helped her into a white pickup truck that headed to the hospital, but he has no idea what happened to her after that.
He has carefully studied photos of the 58 left dead in the attack, so he’s sure she’s alive. But without a name he has no way to find out how she’s doing and is resigned to never knowing her fate.
Like many others who found heroism within themselves on that horrific night, DeLongchamp played his role.
“There’s a hundred other people out there that did what I did that night. I don’t think I did anything special. I just helped the people who needed help,” he said.
“This is not about me; this is about the victims and the families who still have to suffer from this tragedy every day. Please remember 1 October and please remember the 58 victims we lost that night.”