MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Recounts of what seemed like dramatic scenes from a movie were narrated to a packed room of local civilian and military officials on April 24,2013. Although sometimes gory and, perhaps, surreal, these stories were far from fiction. They were the daring accounts of public service members who ran toward danger to save the lives of others.
Now in its 27th year, the Prince William County Valor Awards, held in Gainesville, Va., recognized the vigilant actions of 33 standout first responders and a team of 18 detectives. Marine Corps Base Quantico civilian police officers and former Marines, Bradley Montoya and Michael Rivera, were among those honored.
Rivera, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, received the Bronze Medal for saving a crash victim from a burning vehicle. Last year in May, while at a stoplight on his way home from work, he witnessed a SUV smash into a pickup truck. The crash caused the SUV to burst into flames. Without delay, Rivera sprang into action, risking his life to pull the driver, an elderly woman, from a mangled, burning vehicle.
Montoya, a veteran Marine sergeant, received the Lifesaving Award for rescuing a man found unconscious and unresponsive. While on duty, last year in February, the officer was sent to investigate a report of a man found passed out along a running trail. With sound judgment and quick action, Montoya performed lifesaving CPR on the victim, while coaching a witness through rescue breathing procedures. As a result of these efforts, the man began breathing again on his own.
Col. Barry Neulen, commanding officer of Security Battalion, presented the awards to the officers.
“Here’s an example of two individuals who have crossed the lines of service, gone above and beyond and are now being honored by our civilian community for their service,” Neulen said. “They are a great asset to the Marine Corps, Prince William County and our first responders.”
Many see their actions as heroic, but for Montoya, it was just another day on the job.
“I really didn’t think about anything, I just did what naturally felt right to me,” Montoya said. “I’ve been in situations like this before while serving in Fallujah, so I’m just happy that I got there in a timely manner to save that man’s life.”
The courage of these first responders doesn’t denote that fear was absent. Rivera recalled his split moments of apprehension in the wake of imminent danger. However, with the woman’s car engulfed in flames, he said there was no time to think, only react.
“I wasn’t thinking about myself or [getting] home, but saving that lady’s life and I think anybody would’ve done the same thing,” Rivera said.
Montoya and Rivera, both combat veterans, are no strangers to hostile situations. Rivera earned the Purple Heart award for his actions when wounded by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
Both officers currently serve on Security Battalion’s elite Special Reaction Team aboard Quantico.
“They are the best and brightest in terms of first responders, and the ultimate representation of our civilian Marine [force] at Quantico,” Neulen said.
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