A Bakersfield veteran has been awarded the military's third highest honor for saving a Marine who was critically wounded in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Miguel Madrigal was awarded the Silver Star during a ceremony in San Diego Thursday morning.
In February 2010, Madrigal and his team of Marines were on a mission in Marija, a Taliban stronghold.
"It was about 30 days of just not showering, lousy food. You just sort of anticipate what the enemy is going to do," Madrigal recalled.
Sgt. Madrigal remembers it all as if it were yesterday, including the day he saved a Marine he had never met.
A sniper team was pinned down by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy gunfire. Madrigal called for air support, but the jets turned around for more fuel. So, it was up to Madrigal and his team to go into the building, under heavy fire.
"We were doing some maneuvering away from the building and the Marine in front of me was struck, shot in his leg," said Madrigal.
Madrigal risked his life as he ran into enemy fire and lifted the wounded Marine to safety, as he simultaneously directed a helicopter attack and radioed for medical help.
"He was already controlling an aircraft and then to rush out in front of enemy fire and then to actually apply a tourniquet and save somebody's life, and then to call for help to come in, and then find it's too difficult to come in, there's like five or six layers to that. Sometimes you only hit one or two," said Major James Booker of Madrigal's heroics.
More than three years later, Madrigal's fellow Marines and loved ones gathered at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, to hear his courageous story.
Madrigal was honored for his heroic actions that day, with the Silver Star.
"There's no words to describe how you feel. I've cried tears of joy, just happy, just so excited," said Madrigal's mother, Lydia Madrigal.
A Marine colonel says 122 Silver Stars have been awarded to Marines since the Iraq invasion in 2003. (KGET was originally informed that only 42 Silver Stars had been awarded since 2003. That number has been corrected in this text version of the story).
But, this father of three is soft spoken about the prestigious honor. "I really don't like to be recognized for stuff like this or anything really, so it's a humbling experience," he said. "I feel honored to write that chapter. Like he mentioned, that's all it is, a chapter in a book."
Sgt. Madrigal's training began under Staff Sgt. Allan Walker.
The ceremony took place outside the hall that is dedicated to Walker, who died in the line of duty in 2004.
"I put him in the body bag. I still remember the day I zipped it up. To find out that was his (Madrigal's) drill instructor and now they've named a building after him, there's obviously a flame that's been passed from one generation to another," said Booker.
"He only had one mission and that was just to get you basically trained and ready for what was about to happen," said Madrigal.
Training that helped saved a life and earned Sgt. Madrigal the Silver Star.