A former Bakersfield Marine is being awarded one of the nation's most prestigious honors for his heroic actions while deployed in Afghanistan.
Corporal Miguel Madrigal's courage earned him the Silver Star, which is our country's third-highest military honor. Madrigal is being honored for saving a fellow marine's life during an attack. It was February 15th, 2010. Madrigal and his team of marines set out on a mission in Marjah, a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.
"There was some pretty fierce fighting and some resistance and we had taken over a gas station," explained Madrigal. "There was a sniper team that was out and they radioed back to us that they needed a QRF, meaning quick reaction force, because they were pinned down by rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire," he continued.
Madrigal, a radio operator, called for air support but the jets were low on fuel, and returned to base. It was up to Madrigal and his team to go into the compound, under heavy fire.
"When we exited one of the buildings under fire, one of the marines in front of me was struck in the thigh," said Madrigal. "I was the last one out of that building so I knew that there was no one else coming behind me so I was pretty much his last chance."
Madrigal risked his life as he ran into enemy fire, and lifted the 6-foot-2, 200-pound wounded Marine off the ground, and got him to a nearby canal.
"I noticed there was a lot of arterial bleeding so I applied a tourniquet. I felt my heart going about 200 miles an hour," explained Madrigal. "I remember in training they told us, when you think it's tight enough, do it a little tighter. Well, I broke the first one so I had to hurriedly dig in my pockets for another one and I put another one on."
As he tried to stop the bleeding, Madrigal simultaneously directed a helicopter attack that destroyed four enemy positions and killed ten enemy personnel, as he radioed for medical help.
"They call it the golden hour because if you can get them to a medical facility, his chance of survivability greatly increases," he continued.
The marine survived, but Madrigal hasn't had any contact with the man he still does not know. He even put out a plea on Facebook to find him.
Nearly two years later, Madrigal is being honored for his heroic actions that day with a Silver Star but he's reluctant to take credit. "I don't think I did anything that great," he said. Madrigal deflects the attention from himself. "It's not just me. It's the rest of the team," he noted.
At home in Bakersfield, this humble hero is just "dad" to his three little girls. "It shows a piece of who he is really is. I'm not surprised," said Eileen Madrigal.
"Deep down in my heart I knew Miguel would come back home safe and I'm just so proud he came home a hero," noted his mother, Lydia Madrigal.
Madrigal is a hero who will soon have a Silver Star pinned to his chest. He will be awarded the medal during a ceremony in San Diego on January 31st.