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Sgt. Mauricio Guevara receives the Bronze Star with “V” from Col. Stephen Fenstermacher, commander of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.(U.S. Marine Corps)Sgt. Mauricio Guevara

Unit: 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force

Medal: Bronze Star with "V"

Earned: April 5, 2003, outside Baghdad, Iraq

The Marines from Company K of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, were fortunate that an attached squad leader from I Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, used innovation and determination under fire to rig a makeshift bridge they all had to cross just outside Baghdad.

Sgt. Mauricio Guevara, 24, and his squad traveled ahead of the larger force April 5, 2003, determining that the bridge had been sabotaged to prevent crossing.

He was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” because of his subsequent actions.

He later spoke about rifle fire and mortar blasts intensifying late that afternoon. Guevara realized the bridge had to be patched, but the sergeant needed sturdy materials very quickly to complete the fix.

At nightfall, Guevara slipped into a small town and searched the area for useful objects. With the enemy still shooting and lobbing mortar shells, he carried out his plan.

“We did some recon in the nearby town and took a bunch of scaffolding materials with us, still taking fire, even in the dark,” Guevara said. “We used the scaffolding to build something like a footbridge and were able to cross the next day.”

The rigged bridge allowed Guevara’s squad and the larger force of troops to their rear to cross, but the danger from enemy fire intensified.

“During that time, we were still taking fire when the other Marines started making their way across behind us,” he said. “Then we started taking more mortar and finally, artillery.”

Guevara kept his composure and helped others who struggled as they crossed the bridge of scaffolding. He stayed calm, he said, to set an example to his squad members, ignoring the possibility of being hit by a rifle shell or worse.

“Yes, I was scared during that time, but even so, you can’t show it because you are in a leadership position with your squad, and they depend upon you and draw their own courage from you,” he said.

After the crossing, two Marines from Company K were killed. All of Guevara’s squad members made it across safely.

He said his award isn’t about his individual actions in Iraq.

“I couldn’t have done any of those things by myself,” he added. “To me, it has always been about the squad’s efforts.”

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