Lance Cpl. Tercell Byrd, a Marine Corps rifleman, is awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Lance Cpl. Tercell Byrd, a Marine Corps rifleman, is awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Juan Carpanzano/U.S. Marine Corps)

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — A Hawaii-based Marine Corps lance corporal has been given the service’s highest award for noncombat heroism for protecting a woman from a knife-wielding attacker.

Lance Cpl. Tercell Byrd, a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal during an outdoor ceremony Wednesday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the service said in a news release.

“Lance Corporal Byrd's actions contribute to the long, illustrious line of history that we all inherited as Marines,” Lt. Col. George Gordy IV, commander of 3rd Battalion, told the audience, according to the release. “In the face of danger, Lance Corporal Byrd showed a significant amount of courage and fortitude. Fight, win, then get ready for the next fight, wherever that fight may be. That's what we do.”

Byrd, a native of Newport News, Va., was only four weeks out of boot camp on April 28, 2018, when he received his first off-base liberty from Parris Island, S.C.

“It was my first time being off of the island,” he said in the news release. He traveled to Savannah, Ga., got a motel room and slept late the next day.

As Byrd was returning to his room from breakfast that morning and was crossing the lobby, he heard shrieks coming from a hallway behind the reception desk.

“The next scream was just horrible,” he said. “That scream was enough for me to jump over the counter to go see what was happening.”

After sprinting down the hallway toward the commotion, he found a man clutching a knife in one hand and the motel receptionist’s hair by the other. He saw blood dripping from her hand.

At the sight of the blood, Byrd sprang into action, jumping toward the attacker and knocking him to the ground.

Byrd pulled the woman behind him.

“He was trying to stab me, and I was trying to take the knife out of his hand, but he was strong,” he said. “He wasn't normal. He was on something.”

Byrd repeatedly pounded the man in the head with his knee until the man gave up the attack and fled.

The young Marine led the bleeding receptionist into the stairwell, where he used a motel bedsheet as a bandage.

Paramedics arrived and took to her to a hospital, the news release said.

The man allegedly stole about $400 from the hotel but turned himself in to the police a day later after an extensive manhunt, according to a news report by Savannah TV station WTOC-11.

author picture
Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now