Sgt. Austin Cox and former Sgt. Michael Vura attended the Harvest festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017. They had a three-day weekend planned before Vura, having already served 7 years in the Marine Corps, was retiring from service a month later.
“Both of us being from Ohio, country music is something we bonded on and is one of the reasons we became best friends,” Vura, 26, a Marine Corps veteran, told the Orange County Register.
After hearing Jason Aldean’s performance, they heard the familiar, yet unexpected, sounds of gunfire. It was Steven Paddock, 64, firing more than 1,100 rounds from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to go help,’” said Cox, 26, a flightline mechanic for Marine Light Training Squadron 303, part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,
“Our adrenaline was rushing. You just full-blown go. As people ran out, we ran towards chaos.”
Cox and Vura ran toward the fences to help concert goers escape Paddock’s line of fire. They opened up the barricades to let people out, and carried the wounded to ambulances nearby.
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Back at the main stage, they found 25-year-old Katrina Hannah, shot in the neck and back and unable to speak.
“Even without training, you know you’ve got to plug the wound,” Cox said. “I used my hands.”
A stranger escorted Hannah and Cox to a hospital where the marine waited for three hours with the victim’s mother.
Fifty-eight people were killed, and more than 500 left wounded in the shooting. The Marines ended up saving Hannah’s life. But had they not jumped into action, many more lives may have been lost.
“I’m just so proud of them,” said Katrina’s mother, Loreto Hannah, 59. “They deserve this and so much more. It’s hard to believe that someone would just stop and take care of my daughter. They’re Marines, they will do that.”
On Monday, April 29, these two Marines were honored with the highest non-combat awards in the USMC and US Navy for exceptional bravery and selfless actions in saving lives and preventing serious bodily harm of others.
According to the OCR, Marine Corps Commandant Robert B. Neller, assisted by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sykes and Sgt. Maj. Eric P. Shaffer, awarded the medals to the two Marines on behalf of President Donald Trump.
The ceremony was held outside the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing squadron hangar, with family, friends, and fellow Marines present.
Source: YouTube/Defense Flash News
The medals were accompanied by a citation from Marine Corps Commandant Robert B. Neller.[/caption]
“They didn’t win anything here, they earned something,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin M. Iiams, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “They earned the highest honor for heroism that our nation will give out outside combat operations. That’s no small thing. As the group commander reminded me, there’s a couple of folks who won this award — John F. Kennedy, yeah. So, not a small thing, they have earned this award.”
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.