Marine recruiter honored for heroism
By Cpl. Wil Acosta
| | December 07, 2006
1ST MARINE CORPS DISTRICT, Garden City, N.Y. --
For one recruiter, a red light meant go. The temporary pause in traffic allowed him to exit his vehicle and respond to the accident he had just witnessed at the busy intersection before him.
A red light may have provided Sgt. Nicholas J. Gendron with opportunity to exit his vehicle that afternoon, but his courage and training as a sergeant of Marines is what helped him evacuate a burning school bus, provide first aid to its passengers, and take control of intersection until help arrived on Sept. 19, 2006.
“I was at a red light when I witnessed the accident,” said Gendron, who is currently assigned to Recruiting Station New Jersey. “As soon as it happened, I put my flashers on and got out to hold up traffic. My first concern was whether or not there were small children in that school bus. I wanted to get everyone out safely.”
After stopping traffic, Gendron raced to the school bus and helped evacuate the teenagers he found inside. It wasn’t until later that he realized the bus had been set ablaze.
“There were some who were badly injured,” said the 26 year-old native of Burlington Township, N.J. “We carried them out. But, the teacher and the bus driver were injured so badly I was afraid to move them before the ambulance arrived. But, we had to carry them out too because the bus was on fire.”
Though the heroic event took place this fall, Gendron was honored more recently at the 45th Annual Gold Medal Dinner & Armed Forces Gala in New York City, where he was presented the George M. Van Cleave Military Leadership Award, Dec. 7.
Because the USO presented former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee with the USO Gold Medal Award at the same event, Gendron had an opportunity to meet him and receive his congratulations first hand.
“It was inexplicable … to have such an large audience cheering for you,” said Gendron. “I was even more honored that the former commandant, Gen. Hagee, took the time out to come to my table with his wife to shake my hand and congratulate me. It meant a lot to me.”
However, the heroic experience is something that Gendron humbly viewed as part of his everyday job while working as a Marine recruiter for the 1st Marine Corps District.
“I just happened to be there,” said Gendron. “It was my training as a Marine that helped give me the confidence to react to the situation the way that I did. I might be on recruiting duty, but as a Marine, it’s still my job to serve and protect the people of this country.”