Story by: Amy Turner
Kaheem Bailey-Taylor is a normal teenager. He enjoys listening to music, reading books and spending time with his family.
Late one August night, what should have been a normal social gathering took a turn.
August 17th Bailey-Taylor attended a family member’s birthday party. Shortly after leaving Bailey-Taylor heard gun shots coming from the party causing him to run back to the house.
“The only thing that was really going through my head was that I’ve got to save my family,” Bailey-Taylor said. “Everybody calls me crazy for going back but I don’t know what it was. Something in me told me that I had to go and get them.”
Once he had returned to the party now turned crime scene, Bailey-Taylor assessed the wounded before determining a fellow teen was the most injured.
Using training from his time as a local lifeguard and his Army JROTC first aid class, Bailey-Taylor stayed calm and got to work.
“One thing they teach you in lifeguard training is that you have to be calm so that the people around you aren’t hyper or aren’t going crazy,” Bailey-Taylor said. “I was like, ‘Okay. I have to be the most calm one there because if I’m not, people loose their lives.’”
Police arrived and helped Bailey-Taylor move the victim into a squad car bound for the hospital. Enroute Bailey-Taylor continued to apply pressure to the wound while reassuring the victim.
“While we were in the back of the cop car [they] kept saying ‘Bailey-Taylor don’t let me die,’” Bailey-Taylor said. “That quote will always live with me.”
After the hospital took over, Bailey-Taylor started calling his Army JROTC instructors.
Despite the late hours, he was able to reach Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Manuel Roman, Army Instructor at Philadelphia Military Academy (PMA). The NCO immediately headed to the hospital and stayed with the victim’s mom and Bailey-Taylor through night and early morning.
“That is why I always say PMA adults are like family to us. They are always there when you need them most,” Bailey-Taylor said.
PMA is a public school in the Philadelphia school district with around 350 students. Every student enrolled participates in the Army JROTC program.
“We are a regular high school, but we operate on a military model,” Lt. Col. (Ret.) Russell Gallagher, the Army JROTC instructor at PMA said. “Bailey-Taylor thought, as do others, when you come here it is to get you in the military… Our job is to help prepare them for the future, whatever that field is.”
Hours after leaving the hospital, Bailey-Taylor got ready for school, only to face more dreadful news.
“The morning afterwards, I got in the shower and I learned my best friend died in a car accident,” Bailey-Taylor said. “So, I had a real shooting, plus my best friend dying. I was taking hits left and right.”
Through it all, Bailey-Taylor found support in his school community.
“I came to school at eight o’clock, once I saw Col. Gallagher plus Mrs. Ali [Principal at PMA], I broke down. I knew I was safe and that they would take care of me,” He said.
His actions that night, left everyone around him amazed.
“How many people would run towards a shooting? Everyone else ran away, but he ran towards it,” Gallagher said.
“He has such an influence over the 9th graders and his fellow 11th graders. People do look up to him. They do listen to him…. He is just a good kid. A really good kid. He gives everything he has 100 percent.”
Bailey-Taylor was recognized for his lifesaving actions on Friday, January 6, with the Medal of Heroism. The Medal of Heroism is the highest medal awarded to Army JROTC and ROTC Cadets who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism. The act must result in an accomplishment so exceptional/outstanding as to set a Cadet apart and involve acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities.
Col. Kandace Daffin, the 2nd Brigade Army ROTC commander, and Dr. Tony Wallington, the School District of Philadelphia’s superintendent, presented the award.
“We are proud to have him in the school district of Philadelphia,” Dr. Wallington said during the ceremony. “Cadet Kaheem Bailey-Taylor’s story speaks to the impact of crucial decision making. As we continue to battle the ongoing impact of gun violence in our city and community it is a reminder that our actions can have life altering results.”
“Job well done Cadet Kaheem Bailey-Taylor.” Dr. Wallington said, a sentiment repeated by Daffin.
“You are an inspiration. Thank you for being the young leader that you already are and I am excited about the leader you are going to continue to be in the future,” Daffin said. “Distinguished research professor Dr. Kalu Ndukwe Kalu is quoted as saying, ‘The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.’ That is exactly what you have done, established a legacy of caring, bravery and generosity.”
“The Medal of Heroism award that we presented today is just a small token of appreciation. On behalf of the United States Army Cadet Command and Second Freedom Brigade for your selfless acts on 17 August, we sincerely thank you.”
After graduating high school, Bailey-Taylor hopes to join Army ROTC and become an officer in the United States Army Reserves while pursuing a civilian career as either a police officer in the city of Philadelphia or as a Homeland Security agent.