Two soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment — also known as the The Old Guard — gave D.C. early morning viewers a real-time safety briefing when a driver nearly ran them down in the background of a live TV report on traffic.

Staff Sgt. David Fitzpatrick and Spc. David Santana were on a routine five-mile run Monday morning when they ran into the background of a local ABC news story on construction at Memorial Circle on the Arlington side of the Potomac River. Both had their PT belts on, of course.

Seconds after the reporter began speaking, Fitzpatrick had to dodge a vehicle, which came to a screeching halt in the crosswalk. Both soldiers then stopped and briefly stared down the driver before apparently noticing the WJLA crew. They then (wisely) continued their run rather than confront the driver.

“We both made eye contact with him, and he came to a dead stop," Fitzpatrick told Military Times. "Then once we got in front of him, he stepped on the gas, and we were both like ‘oh s---, we gotta get out of the way!’”

As for the staredown, Fitzpatrick showed commendable restraint.

“I looked at the guy in the eyes afterward and he said ‘sorry,’ but he looked like he probably…shouldn’t have been driving,” he noted.

Asked whether he credited his reflective Army PT belt with saving their lives, Fitzpatrick chuckled and said, “Not really…it was pretty bright out right then.”

Maybe Defense Secretary Mark Esper was onto something when he signed a memo as Army secretary in 2019 that said soldiers no longer needed to wear PT belts during daylight hours.

But there isn’t proof that the PT belt didn’t save Fitzpatrick’s life this morning — better safe than sorry, especially when you’re running in D.C. traffic.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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