In the right place, at the right time:
Sgt. First Class Chris Meinhardt, an 18-year veteran of the Ohio Army National Guard, shows where he saw a young boy walking alongside Black Road in Butler County while on his way to work the morning of October 20, 2016. Meinhardt, the senior human resources sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, stopped to help the child who had walked out of his grandmother’s house and wandered down the road.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (02-16-17) — What started out one morning as a normal drive to work quickly changed for Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Chris Meinhardt.
Meinhardt, an 18-year veteran of the National Guard, began October 20, 2016, like any other day. He woke up, got ready for work, put on his uniform, said goodbye to his wife Karen and got in his car to go to work as the senior human resources sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment at the Woodlawn Armory in Cincinnati. There was a slight chill in the air, it was wet and a still a little dark as he set off along the back roads of Butler County to his unit’s readiness center.
Scanning the road to see why the car in front had abruptly stopped and then sped off, Meinhardt saw something just off to the side of the road. “It was a little boy who looked to be about 3 or 4 years of age. He was wet, cold, hunched down and walking on the other side of the road, toward me,” Meinhardt said. “The people in the car in front of me must have seen the child and, for whatever reason, made the decision not to help.”
Meinhardt didn’t hesitate. He immediately stopped the car, turned his hazard lights on, rolled down his window and yelled for the boy to stop to keep him from walking onto the road.
“Just then, a car behind me came to a screeching halt, almost hitting the back end of my car,” Meinhardt said.
A middle-aged man quickly exited the vehicle and came to his window asking what was going on. Meinhardt pointed to the child across the road and asked the man to go over and try to talk to the child while he called 911. His second call was to his wife, who happens to be a supervisor for Butler County Children Services, to let her know what was happening. While Meinhardt was on the phone, the other man was able to find out the boy’s name and that he was trying to get to his grandmother’s house. When asked where her house was, the boy pointed and said over there (giving about a 45 degree swing of his arm).
When a Butler County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived on the scene, he thanked Meinhardt for being the one who stopped to help the child out, explaining that a lot of bad things could have happened to him. The deputy said the boy could have wandered onto the road or the wrong kind of person could have picked him up.
Traffic was starting to back up on the road, holding up Sandra Wilmer as she tried to make her way to find her grandson. Wilmer, who had been babysitting the boy, woke up to find the front door of her house wide open. She immediately looked to see if her grandson was in the house and when she couldn’t find him, got into her car and began driving to the boy’s mother’s house. She was so focused on getting to her daughter’s house, she saw the police cars but didn’t realize what was going on. When she didn’t find him at the house, she turned the car around and headed back up Black Road.
“As I got closer, I decided to stop and ask the deputy if they had seen a little boy,” Sandra said. “It was at that time that the deputy stepped away from the (police) car and I saw (her grandson), sitting in the backseat. I was thrilled that someone had found him safe.”
When Meinhardt returned home that day, he explained to his children (Charlotte, 7, and Clara, 3) what had happened on his way to work that morning. Charlotte said she was very proud, but curious as to why her father stopped and helped the child. She knows what kind of work her mother does with Butler County Children Services because, as parents, they have explained to her before that her mother’s job is to help children in need.
“I think she related that with the fact that her dad is in the Army National Guard,” Meinhardt said. “I have explained to her what her dad does in the Guard, and that we have (community), state and federal missions, which means we help our fellow citizens in need and that we do things to contribute to the betterment of local communities.”
When asked what his 3-year old thought about the incident, Meinhardt said: “Clara didn’t say a whole lot, she just kind of smiled and agreed with Charlotte.”
Later that day, upon learning the details of Meinhardt’s heroics, family friend Fonda Neise said to Meinhardt that divine intervention must have played a role in him being in the right place at the right time to help the boy.
“It just goes to show that God puts his guardian angels where he needs them,” Neise said. “I am so glad that you listened and were at the right place when he called.”