A U.S. Marine was honored for pulling a man from a burning vehicle and saving his life on his way to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.
On Tuesday, Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal, according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
Peach received his award during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. DoD officials said he was recognized for pulling a man out of a flaming, overturned car on his way back to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside back in 2015.
“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” Peach told the DoD.
When faced with an emergency, Peach didn't hesitate. He pulled his car in front of the burning vehicle and rushed to the man's aid, said DoD officials.
“I was scared the entire time, but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car, and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”
He attempted to break the windows off the car without success, said DoD officials.
“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch, and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him, he was tangled up in his seat belt, and I couldn’t get him loose.”
Then Peach received a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help, said DoD officials. This allowed him to cut the seat belt and carry the man out.
Peach helped the injured man, staying by his side until paramedics arrived. Dod officials said Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after the heroic incident.
“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, in a statement. “I’m proud of him, and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”
DoD officials added that Peach gained a lot more than a new medal after he risked his life to save a stranger.
“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”