Major Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presents Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. Salabarria was awarded for his actions in Afghanistan Sept. 15, 2014.
(Photo and article by Sergeant Lia Gamato, 5 FEB 2016.)
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria, a corpsman with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, was awarded the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 5, for his actions in Afghanistan.
Salabarria, a Miami native, joined the Navy in December 2008 with the full intention of becoming a corpsman serving at an infantry unit. However, his first orders directed him to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Unfazed, Salabarria decided to take control of his future service as a corpsman, taking an interest in special operations. He attended the Basic Reconnaissance School and Army Basic Airborne School, then received orders to 3d Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. While preparing for deployment with Scout Sniper Platoon, Salabarria jumped on the opportunity to attend the Special Operations Combat Medic Course in Fort Bragg, N.C. Upon graduation, he received orders to 2nd MRB.
“From all of his training, he was basically a junior (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman), which was exactly what we needed on the team,” said a critical skills operator with Marine Special Operations Team 8214, Marine Special Operations Company F.
Salabarria checked into the team in 2013 and, from the start, he set himself apart.
“Most corpsmen stay in their bubble … but Sal was always the guy who wanted to go out and be a CSO before he was a corpsman,” said a critical skills operator. “Which was great because it’s hard to instill that aggressiveness in someone.”
In June 2014, the team deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was nearing the end of their deployment, on Sept. 15, 2014, that the team was caught by enemy fire.
“We were headed to the (landing zone), and what caught my eye was that off to my right there was one guy praying. No one else was praying, just this one individual,” said the CSO. “Didn’t think anything of it.”
The team was dropped off on the LZ and split into two groups for the flight, one team staging to the north, the other to the south. Because aircraft wasn’t expected to land for several hours, the teams took a tactical pause to adjust their gear. It wasn’t until dark settled over the LZ that they came under attack.
“It’s funny that I heard (it) because we were a fair good distance away, but it was clear as day. I heard, ‘What the (expletive),’ and it almost sounded like a flash bang went off, and then just rapid fire,” said the CSO.
A rogue shooter had fired an M203 round into the LZ before circling around firing off an automatic weapon into the groups of gathered Raiders and commandos.
“I immediately hit the deck, I thought Sal is right next to me. He wasn’t,” said the CSO. “I don’t think he even hit the ground, I think he just ran.”
Salabarria had grabbed his medical kit and taken off running toward the center of the LZ where someone was yelling in pain. He explained that the only thing visible were muzzle flashes and the outlines of people, so he followed the cries for help. Salabarria first came across the foreign interpreter who then directed him to the team SARC. The senior medic had been struck by rapid fire in his arm and leg, shattering the upper part of his shin bone.
“I checked him over real quick, and that’s when I noticed that we were directly getting shot at,” said Salabarria. “At that point, I laid on top of (the team SARC), told him not to move, and I shot at (the shooter) until he went down.”
“Stories go, that other commandos were shooting, that our guys were shooting,” said the CSO. “But from my perspective, it was a gunfight between two people.”
For his “bold initiative, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty,” Maj Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presented Salabarria with the Silver Star Medal. He was joined by Surgeon General Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, and teammates from 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
“I think anybody on that team, given the opportunity, would have done the same thing. It just happened to be me that did it,” said Salabarria.
Sergeant Charles Strong lost his life during this attack. His family attended the ceremony as guests of honor, along with the family of Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, who was a part of the “Raider 7” lost in March 2015, in a helicopter crash off the coast of Florida. Shaw was the officer who first submitted Salabarria for the award.
“(This medal) is more for Capt. Shaw and Sgt. Strong than anything,” said Salabarria. “It’s all for them.”
USMC Sergeant Charles C. Strong. 15 SEP 2014. Died in Herat Province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered in an insider attack. Strong was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, out of Camp Lejeune, NC.
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Marines from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s burial team salute the nation’s flag as it is held over the casket of Medal of Honor recipient Capt. John James McGinty III, during his funeral Jan. 23, 2014, at Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, S.C. McGinty, a decorated Vietnam War hero and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island veteran, died Jan. 17, 2014, in his home in Beaufort at the age of 73.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink/Released)
Sgt. Michael Nygaard, a drill instructor for Platoon 3044, India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, roams the barracks moments before waking his recruits for their first official training day March 25, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Recruits spent the morning getting dressed, experiencing their first incentive training session,cleaning their barracks, and, finally, eating a nutritious breakfast. The formal 70-day training schedule begins about one week after recruits arrive. Nygaard, 29, is from Cape Coral, Fla. India Company is scheduled to graduate June 13, 2014. (Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink.)
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U.S. Marines with Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, fold the nations colors as practice prior to the burial ceremony for Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Capt. John J. McGinty III (ret), at the Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, S.C., Jan. 23, 2014. Capt. McGinty received the nation’s highest award for valor, for his actions, during the Vietnam conflict. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Vincent White MCRD Parris Island Combat Camera/Released)
Youngest M.O.H. recipient, PFC Jacklyn Harold Lucas (1928–2008) was a U.S. Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Iwo Jima campaign for unhesitatingly hurling himself over his comrades upon one grenade and for pulling another one under himself.
Although only 14 years of age, having a muscular build, 5 ft 8 in tall and weighing 180 pounds, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve without his mother’s consent on 6 August 1942. He gave his age as 17, and went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina for recruit training.
During his rifle training, Pvt. Lucas qualified as a sharpshooter. He was next assigned to the Marine Barracks at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. In June 1943, he was transferred to the 21st Replacement Battalion at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and one month later he went to the 25th Replacement Battalion, where he successfully completed schooling which qualified him as a heavy machine gun crewman.
He left the continental United States on 4 November 1943, and the following month he joined the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was advanced to private first class on 29 January 1944.
With statements to his buddies that he was going to join a combat organization, PFC Lucas walked out of camp on 10 January 1945, wearing a khaki uniform and carrying his dungarees and field shoes in a roll under his arm.
He was declared UA (Unauthorized Absence) when he failed to return that night and a month later, when there was still no sign of him, he was declared a “deserter”, and a reward was offered for his apprehension. He was also reduced to the rank of private at that time.
He stowed away on board USS Deuel which was transporting units of the 5th Marine Division into combat. He surrendered to the senior troop officer present on 8 February 1945 dressed in neat, clean dungarees. He was allowed to remain, and shortly after he was transferred to Headquarters Company, 5th Marine Division. He reached his 17th birthday while at sea, six days before the heroic actions at Iwo Jima, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On the day following the landing at Iwo Jima, he was creeping through a twisting ravine with three other men of his rifle team when the Japanese opened an attack on them. The men were in a trench when two enemy grenades landed nearby. Lucas pushed a thrown hand grenade into the volcanic ash and covered it with his rifle and his body. He reached out and pulled a second grenade beneath him. His companions had thought he died in the blast, so they left him, but he was amazingly still alive. Severely wounded in the right arm and wrist, right leg and thigh, and chest, Pvt. Lucas had undoubtedly saved his companions from serious injury and possible death.
He was evacuated to the hospital ship Samaritan, and then treated at various field hospitals prior to his arrival in San Francisco, California on 28 March 1945. He eventually underwent 21 surgeries. For the rest of his life, there remained about 200 pieces of metal, some the size of 22 caliber bullets, in Lucas’ body — which set off airport metal detectors.
The mark of desertion was removed from his record in August of that year while he was a patient at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve because of disability resulting from his wounds on 18 September 1945, following his reappointment to the rank of Private First Class.
On 5 October 1945, Lucas and 14 other sailors and Marines (including Pappy Boyington) were presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. In attendance at the ceremony were Lucas’ mother, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.
Lucas receives his Medal of Honor Flag from CMC Gen. Hagee.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, PFC Lucas was awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star and the World War II Victory Medal.
He served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1961 to 1965 as a paratrooper to conquer his fear of heights and survived a training jump in which both of his parachutes did not open. When the keel of the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) was laid, Lucas placed his Medal of Honor citation in the ship’s hull, where it remains sealed.
On 3 August 2006, Lucas, along with 15 living Marine Medal of Honor recipients, was presented the Medal of Honor flag by Commandant of the Marine Corps General Michael Hagee. The presentation took place at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. in front of over 1,000 people, including family, friends, and Marines. Lucas said of the ceremony, “To have these young men here in our presence — it just rejuvenates this old heart of mine. I love the Corps even more knowing that my country is defended by such fine young people.”
He died at a hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on 5 June 2008 of leukemia with family and friends by his side. ~Wiki