Hometown hero shares honor with San Jose community
By Sgt. Christine C. Odom
| 12th Marine Corps District | January 10, 2006
SAN JOSE, Calif. --
A crowd of observers gathered at the San Jose Fire Department’s Training Division Facility at a billboard ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 10 to recognize Sgt. Michael P. Montemayor as the first “Hometown Hero” from the Bay Area.
The ceremony commemorated the continuation of the Marine Corps’ Hometown Heroes program.
“Nothing could keep me from being here as a fellow Marine is recognized for the honorable things he’s done,” said Joseph Long, a retired Marine from Walnut Creek, Calif. “It is truly a sight to see when Marines and the community join together in support of one of their own.”
This nationwide campaign began as a means to recognize Marines who have demonstrated outstanding heroism and steadfast dedication to duty during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, but has expanded to recognize those in the local community, such as teachers, lawyers, law enforcement and many more who have accomplished great things in their day-to-day jobs, explained Capt. Sean P. Petersen, marketing officer for 12th Marine Corps District.
“Sergeant Montemayor was selected as the Bay Area’s hometown hero because of his actions in Iraq,” continued Petersen. “Not only did he directly save one Marine’s life, but he inadvertently saved the lives of countless other Marines.”
Montemayor earned the title "hero" when his unit, B Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines joined the initial wave of Marines who deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Our orders were to secure the supply route to Iraq and the fastest way there was through An-Nasiriyah,” said Montemayor, who at the time was a fire team leader. “We took on heavy fire as we were making our way through the city. Then, we got to a danger area, (a bridge that was exposed), and began crossing in a two-by-two covered formation. My squad leader and I made it to the other side of the bridge, and I called for the last two Marines to cross over. I could see them in the corner of my eye and thought they were safe. All of the sudden I hear that one of my Marines is in the sewage canal.”
Without hesitation and with disregard for his own safety, Montemayor left his covered position, exposed himself to enemy fire and reentered the danger area to retrieve the Marine. After considerable effort, Montemayor pulled the Marine from the sewage canal, dragged him to cover and ensured he could continue with his team, stated Montemayor’s citation.
“By his zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional dedication to duty, Corporal Montemayor, reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service,” read Maj. Michael V. Samarov, commanding officer of Recruiting Station San Francisco.
Montemayor’s actions earned him a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the pride of being recognized as one of the Marine Corps hometown heroes.
Approximately 20 billboards spread across the Bay Area display Montemayor’s photograph, five in Contra Costa County and 15 in Santa Clara County, all of which illustrate the pride and valor the Marine Corps is known for.
“I definitely appreciate being honored as a hero, but I was only doing what I was taught. I am a Marine; we look out for each other, and we never leave one of our own behind,” concluded the Bronze Star recipient.