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Air Patrol major helps two people in two weeks, but says he is not a hero

WILLMAR -- Gerald Kleene, of rural Maynard, has been in the right place at the right time lately, helping a man who was injured when in a motorcycle vs. deer crash and a child who was choking on a piece of candy.

Kleene, a pilot and a major in the Wesota Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, says he's not a hero.

"We are prepared to meet everyday needs," he said Thursday. "This happened to be one of the needs."

The man in need was Todd Pederson, 39, of St. Paul, who was on his way home for Labor Day around 8 p.m. Saturday evening when he hit a deer along a county road south of Maynard.

Kleene and his wife, Karen, who is also a Civil Air Patrol member, were on their way into town when they saw tracks on the road, the crashed cycle, the deer and finally, Pederson's hand waving in the grassy ditch.

The Kleenes called for help and stayed with Pederson until emergency medical personnel came to attend to him.

According to information from the Civil Air Patrol, Pederson was transported to Granite Falls Hospital and then airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where he had surgery to repair his broken arm and leg.

Kleene also used his training to help someone a week before.

On Aug. 23, he was working at the antique farm eq-uipment show put on by the Minnesota Valley An-tique Farm Power and Machinery Association in Montevideo and used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a piece of candy from a young boy's throat.

He didn't get the boy's name, only that the young man was at the show with his grandparents. After the incident, Kleene talked with the boy and made sure he was OK but didn't catch his name.

Kleene is the safety officer for the squadron and the group "really thrives on doing it the safe way to prevent things from happening," he said.

"Sometimes, things are not preventable."

Squadron commander Ruth Hoffman intends to nominate Kleene for a life-saving award that could be awarded at the next state conference.

Air patrol members are trained in CPR, first aid and search and rescue. Training is a "constant" part of their effort to be ready whenever needed, she says.

The patrol squadron has helped look for lost or crashed aircraft, search for lost or missing people in the air or on the ground and a wide range of other activities.

"We are called to do whatever we can," Hoffman said. "We are ready to roll at a moment's notice."