A strong airlift

Lt. Col. Patrick Johannes, left, and Tech. Sgt. Eddie Colon, both assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, discuss a patient's care during a flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 4, 2014. Johaness and Colon are members of a Critical Care Air Transport Team. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Allan Eason/Released)

Lt. Col. Patrick Johannes, left, and Tech. Sgt. Eddie Colon, both assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, discuss a patient's care during a flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 4, 2014. Johaness and Colon are members of a Critical Care Air Transport Team. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Allan Eason/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Eddie Colon, left, and Lt. Col. Patrick Johannes, both assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, discuss a patient's care during a flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 4, 2014. Johaness and Colon are members of a Critical Care Air Transport Team. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Allan Eason/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Eddie Colon, left, and Lt. Col. Patrick Johannes, both assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, discuss a patient's care during a flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 4, 2014. Johaness and Colon are members of a Critical Care Air Transport Team. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Allan Eason/Released)

Members of the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight Critical Care Air Transport Team visit Levi Eaves and his mother Judy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight Critical Care Air Transport Team visit Levi Eaves and his mother Judy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (Courtesy photo)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- The Fourth of July is a day of importance for many. This Independence Day would turn out to be one to remember for Lt. Col. Patrick Johannes, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron critical care air transport officer, who recently returned from a deployment with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight.

Among the 32 patients on this particular flight from Landstuhl, Germany to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was Soldier Sterling "Levi" Eaves, who had been injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan which shattered his pelvis, injured nerves in his right leg, and fractured multiple limbs. He also had an abdominal hemorrhage, blood infection and pneumonia.

"That morning before I left my room, I prayed for wisdom and guidance for my team," said Johannes. "We all had just arrived to Ramstein. In fact, we were still getting in-processed when we received orders to perform the airlift. It was our first mission." 

On the way, Levi's condition took a turn for the worse. Fortunately, Johannes and his crew stabilized him. Levi's mother Judy accompanied him on the flight. She jumped out of her seat, rushed beside him, and took his hand. 

Johannes, leaned across the the stretcher to tell Judy he had been praying for them since the day prior. She broke down in tears, and asked him to thank his family for their sacrifice in having him away from home, so he could be there to take care of Levi.

Tears rolled from his eyes.

"How humbling," said Johannes.  "Judy thanks me for my service, while holding the hand of her son with tubes and metal braces are all over his body. I will never forget that moment."

Johannes visited Levi at Walter Reed three weeks after the mission. When he walked into the room, Judy said to Levi, "This is the doctor I was telling you about." 

While sitting in his wheelchair, Levi's eyes watered as Johannes shook his hand and gave him a hug.

"Being able to meet and thank Lt. Col. Johannes meant a lot to Levi," said Judy. "He was directly responsible for saving my son's life."

Levi is doing better today than he was months ago, according to his mom. But there is still a long road to recovery.

Levi has been dubbed "Levi Strong" by those patiently awaiting his recovery and offering him support. His family has established a Facebook community called, "The Latest on Levi," which provides the latest on his condition to over 3,000 followers.

"The world needs more men like Johannes," said Judy. "I'm sure he has directly and indirectly saved countless lives throughout the years."

Levi has high hopes that their paths will one day cross again.