Army medic found faith after rescuing bear attack survivor: 'There's something bigger than myself out there' [VIDEO]

Woman played dead to survive bear mauling.

AP video screenshot
Jessica Gamboa

An Army medic in Alaska who rescued a bear attack survivor on May 18 said the experience made him believe in a higher power.

Sgt. Collin Gillikin found Jessica Gamboa, injured and bleeding, walking on the side of the road on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. He couldn't believe she was still standing.

Gamboa—whose husband, Jacob, is a 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division soldier on the base—was out for a jog when she came across two brown bear cubs. She immediately stopped, knowing their mother could not be far away.

"As soon as I did that, I looked back to my left, and the mama bear was already coming towards me," Gamboa told the Associated Press on May 27.

She was knocked down by the sow, then picked up and carried to the side of the road where she was attacked in three violent outbursts. Gamboa does not know whether she was bitten or clawed.


The wife and mother remained in a fetal position, without screaming or fighting back, during the brutal encounter. After the bears left, she laid in the embankment for a couple of minutes.

"I felt completely like I was beaten half to death," she said.

Gamboa called out for her husband, who was also out jogging, but received no response. She thought of her four-year-old son, and prayed to God for strength to walk to safety.

The 25-year-old was walking to her truck to call 911 when Sgt. Gillikin's vehicle approached her.

"I got a little bit closer and she was stumbling a little bit," he told AP. "That's when I stopped the truck."

Gamboa was applying pressure to her neck wounds with both hands, and was bleeding from her arms, legs, and face.

Gillikin drove her to the base hospital, and Gamboa was eventually treated at the Alaska Native Medical Center. She suffered a torn ear, neck fractures, and multiple lacerations across her body.

Gamboa, a California native, cannot believe she survived.

"It seems still surreal, just for the fact that I'm still alive— seems unreal," she said.

The experience also changed Gillikin from a man without faith to a believer.

"It kind of made me realize there's something bigger than myself out there," he said.

Associated Press

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