MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- They were training the Iraqi Police in military tactics and procedures to better defend and fight against the enemy when an explosion went off sending shrapnel everywhere and personnel to the floor.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christian Rueda, a corpsman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, was blown to the ground receiving shrapnel wounds to the back of his head, legs and arms. Not knowing he was injured, Rueda sprung to action triaging all those around him.
“It was somewhere around nine in the morning and the sun was up. All of a sudden we heard an explosion,” explained the Houston native. “I don’t know if it was the explosion or me jumping and then being hit by the explosion, but I was on the floor on the other side of the room with shrapnel all around me.”
Rueda and the rest of the Combined Action Platoon were training the Iraqi Police and staying with them on a regular basis near Haditha, Iraq. They were staying in a small building down the street from the Iraqi National Guard who was attacked seconds after the first explosion went off.
After the first explosion, Rueda gathered himself, got his bearings straight and looked over to see one of his Marines headed his way.
“I looked over and saw my Marine all covered in blood and began to work on him,” explained the 2000 Galena Park High School graduate.
He did not just treat Marines who were injured though. A stream of Iraqi Police and local citizens caught in the blasts were brought in and treated. Many of the mortally wounded were picked up by the locals and hauled off while some other injured were taken to hospitals.
Rueda knew he needed to get the wounded medically evacuated to the nearest base to be treated more efficiently. The enemy planned for this and set up improvised explosive devices all along the road so no one could enter or leave the area to treat the wounded and dying.
“We ended up being there for over eight hours taking care of all that we could,” explained Rueda. “We were always being threatened by the insurgents to leave and this was one example.”
Knowing what he needed to do, Rueda made sure everyone was treated to the best of his ability. During all this, he was taking care of others until one of his fellow corpsmen pulled him aside and treated him for the shrapnel wounds he had received during the initial explosion.
“He was awarded this medal because he was injured in an attack and not only that, he made a great sacrifice by getting up and treating his fellow wounded Marines,” explained 1st Sgt. Martin E. Bock, Headquarters Company first sergeant.