‘I just felt like I needed to cover his body’
By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 12, 2014
When a soldier from the Republic of Georgia stepped on an improvised explosive device in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on July 19, 2011, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Marchante ran to the rescue without hesitation. For his lifesaving efforts and bravery that day, he earned the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor.
Marchante, 26, who grew up in Murrieta, Calif., has an instinct for saving people. When he joined the Navy in 2007, he intended to become a rescue swimmer, but when that didn’t work out, he decided to be a hospital corpsman.
“I heard they went [out on patrols] with Marines, and it sounded interesting,” he recalled.
During his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan, Marchante was attached to Supporting Arms Liaison Team Delta, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. The unit was charged with providing support to Georgian forces in Helmand province. Besides going out on patrols, Marchante taught battlefield medicine courses to Georgian doctors and medics, using a curriculum that he created for them.
“Marchante dramatically influenced the medical proficiency of … Georgian medics” operating in a war zone. “He enhanced their ability to preserve human life, which instilled confidence in the men they supported,” his medal citation read.
On the day that Marchante earned the Bronze Star, his unit was providing force protection for Georgian soldiers clearing IEDs in a dry stream bed. As the Georgians were preparing to move out, their scout platoon commander stepped on something. The explosion from a pressure-plate-activated IED blew off part of his leg and peppered the rest of his lower body with shrapnel.
“It wasn’t the first casualty” during this deployment, Marchante said. “I’d been a little bit used to it … So I kind of just relied on my training and went straight to him.”
Ignoring the threat of hidden IEDs that might lie in front of him, Marchante grabbed his medical kit and raced 300 meters across open terrain to where the Georgian soldier lay bleeding. When he reached the wounded man, he came under heavy machine-gun fire. The corpsman ignored the bullets that were landing just inches away from him.
“My job was to provide medical [care], so I was just doing my job,” he said.
To stem the soldier’s heavy blood loss, Marchante applied tourniquets to both of his legs and added several pressure dressings.
When he realized how heavy and close the enemy fire was, Marchante pivoted and put himself between the wounded soldier and the incoming rounds.
“Once I started noticing the fire and it was landing very close to us … I just felt like I needed to cover his body,” he recalled.
Marchante was able to stop the bleeding by the time a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle arrived on the scene. He loaded the soldier onto the MRAP and continued to provide medical aid until the vehicle reached a makeshift helicopter landing zone. There the wounded soldier was transferred to a medevac aircraft. The Georgian ultimately survived, and Marchante is credited with saving his life.
I think anybody else in my position would have done the same thing,” he insisted. “Any corpsman, medic, whatever, would have reacted the same way.”
He was surprised when he found out he was going to receive the Bronze Star.
“I wasn’t expecting an award, but it was cool,” he said with a chuckle.
The medal was presented to Marchante on Oct. 25, 2013.
“For me, I kind of just look at it like it’s great to represent the rest of the corpsman. There’s so many corpsman that have done stuff like this” and don’t get recognized, he said. “It’s humbling; I kind of look at it like I’m wearing this medal for all the other corpsman.”
Marchante is getting ready to attend Independent Duty Corpsman School at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. After he completes the 12-month course of classroom and clinical training, he will have additional authority and responsibilities, such as prescribing medication to patients.