MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VA --
“Marines to be awarded! Center! March!” rang throughout the courtyard.
At the back of the formation, three U.S. Marines march around the formation to the front, stopping to face their superiors, Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Executive Officer Lt. Col. Matthew McNerney and Chief Instructor Advisor Gunnery Sgt. Aric Lonchar.
“... the Secretary of the Navy has awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to Corporal’s John W. Darby and Bradley J. Feldkamp and Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dural , United States Marine Corps for professional achievement in the performance of their duties while serving as Marine Security Guards with Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, Quantico, Virginia on one April 2023.” Lonchar read aloud.
Lance Cpl. Dural and Cpls. Darby and Feldkamp did not expect their Saturday would go the way that it did.
After finishing their errands in Stafford, Virginia, the three decided to stop by a local Chick-fil-A to grab some lunch. They ordered their food then sat down in a booth at the back of the restaurant.
Scanning his surroundings, Dural noticed two suspicious seeming teenagers glancing over at a man sitting down nearby.
“When I saw the two individuals, I was on edge a little bit,” said Dural.
Moments later, the two teenagers began to verbally berate the man before things became physical between them.
“The teenagers went over to antagonize the other person sitting down and while they're antagonizing him, they said something that sent him over the edge,” continued Dural. “And that's whenever the man got up and he went to tackle both of them, and they slammed into a woman too. Pushing her up against a wall.”
Immediately, Dural shot up out of his seat to intervene.
Seeing what their friend was about to do, Darby and Feldkamp ran over to help with the situation.
Dural tried to deescalate the situation by verbally telling the teenagers they had to leave, while Darby went over to the woman pushed to make sure she was okay.
“I was trying to get her to call the police because she was physically hit by them. She was kind of okay, she was fine, but she was kind of out of it. With Dural yelling at them, ‘this is not the right thing to do. Not the right place, not the right time, not the right crowd and everything,’ I felt like he was doing a pretty good job at it but obviously the people who were fighting had a different idea. And then it just escalated,” added Darby.
The teenagers weren’t listening, all of a sudden one of the teenagers pulled out a knife.
When Dural saw the knife, the first thing he felt was surprise. But he knew that it was a danger to everybody nearby, and that action was needed.
Instinctively, Dural grabbed the teen’s arm holding the knife to disarm him, bringing him to the ground.
“This is serious, this went from one level to a whole different level. At that point I realized that there are women and children here, I couldn’t let anyone get hurt,” recalled Dural.
Darby and Feldkamp stood over the two, preventing both the man and the other teenager from causing any harm.
“Darby, grab the blade,” yelled Dural.
Darby looked down, at the knife that had been snapped in half while restraining the teen that was attempting to pry the knife back from Dural.
Darby reached down and quickly took the knife away, bringing it to the Chick-fil-A manager.
“I honestly don't remember it was just kind of blank. It was fight or flight. In the Marine Corps and in MSG training they teach you that your body will push yourself to a limit that you won't understand until you get there. When you’re in a high stress situation, you go back to your most basic form of training and the last training that I had was MSG training,” said Dural. “I think the defensive tactics like wrist locks and the manipulations that we learn, I think it definitely gave me the basis to do what I needed to do. I remember I was cross-armed so my left hand was on the blade and then my right arm was still putting pressure on his elbow joint. I knew that I needed to control that wrist. I know I needed to manipulate that wrist to have any chance of doing anything productive. I definitely think MSG training helped a lot.”
When the teenager noticed the knife was snapped, he stopped fighting Dural, who then released him.
Both teenagers fled through the back exit of the restaurant.
Luckily, there were police officers already in the vicinity, when the call was made, so they were able to detain one of the teens, as the other one ran off across the street. Within 10 minutes, the police were able to apprehend the teenager and bring them both in custody.
When the Marines were asked why they chose to act in the face of danger, the Marines had a few things to say.
“Basically, as soon as it happened, my only thought was to keep Dural safe. If anything happens to him, it's my responsibility to keep him safe. I thought once he involved himself we all had to,” explained Darby.
Dural went on to say, “I'm going to be honest. I don't know. I took care of my sisters growing up. And I've always felt real protective. And I saw little kids running around. And I just didn’t want one of these innocent children, one of these mothers, somebody's daughter or sister to be stabbed. I'm a Marine, I'll be okay. I'll figure it out. I'm going to figure it out. So, yeah, that pride kicked in. And because I know that if my sister was in that Chick-fil-A, I would have done the same thing. Because I'm not letting anybody get close to my family. You know? And I would hope somebody would do that for my sisters. I was gonna be alright, regardless, I was gonna figure it out. Because of God and country. So, if God didn't want me there, he wouldn't have put me there.”
“I feel like it was instinct. What if it would have gone way south if none of us were there to hop in. When the people saw the scuffle, they were going for the doors. So there weren't many people in there that were trying to help out. Then suddenly the knife came out and more people got scared. None of us are really scared of a knife, we had to go help somebody out before it got worse,” added Feldkamp.
The three Marines don’t think too highly of themselves for their actions. They believe that any Marine would have done the same in their shoes.
“We were all in the situation. Dural decided to act. We followed his initiative and then just like that, we went on with it. It should be expected that in any situation where something hits the fan this severely, that Marines will act like Marines,” said Darby.
“Like, you know, whenever I join the Marine Corps, that's what I thought Marines do, you know, so I don't expect anybody to treat me differently. I personally don’t like being treated differently,” said Dural. “I'm just another Lance Corporal trying to do my job in the Marine Corps. And that's how I look at it and it's gonna stay that way.”
“We are in the business of continuing a legacy, and those actions that were conducted this weekend by those three Marines had done just that. They continued the legacy of previous generations of Marine Security Guards, by doing what we do best, protecting those around us,” said Lonchar.
Lance Corporal Dural, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, has orders to the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
Corporal Darby, a native of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, currently serving at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.
Corporal Feldkamp, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, currently serving at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.