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U.S. Marine Receives the Highest Non-Combat Award
Cpl. Nathan Bryson, a Marine veteran who most recently served as a motor transport operator for Headquarters and Support Battalion, School of Infantry East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment headquarters in Brook Park, Ohio, April 13, 2017.
Bryson received the highest non-combat decoration for his heroic actions at the scene of a car collision on the morning of Sept. 12, 2014.
Larry Flesher, an electrical technician from Valdosta, Georgia, was driving to work over the Sneads Ferry Bridge in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina. Suddenly and without warning, Flesher’s vehicle struck another car in a head-on collision, causing his femur, arm and ankle to break.
While returning to Camp Geiger, Bryson and a fellow Marine came upon the collision. Upon seeing black smoke pluming from one of three crashed vehicles, Bryson hastily rushed towards the smoking vehicle, ignoring the fire and extreme heat.
“Being a Marine, you’re taught to just go and do it,” Bryson said. “We ran down there after a Marine asked if we had any fire extinguishers. Once down there, the one vehicle was covered in smoke. After getting him [Flesher] out of the vehicle, the fire immediately covered the spot where he was sitting.”
According to Bryson’s award summary, if he and the other Marine hadn’t arrived at that time, Flesher would have surely died in the fire.
“This epitomizes and captures ‘Protect What You’ve Earned’,” said Col Ricardo Player, the Force Headquarters Group chief of staff, Marine Forces Reserve. “‘Protect What You’ve Earned’ covers suicide, quick thinking and always being ready, not getting ready. When you see an opportunity to do good, you do it. It should be reflexive. If you see something that needs to be fixed, repaired or acted upon, you take action.”
Also in attendance for the ceremony was Bryson’s father, also a Marine, his girlfriend and two grandparents.
“Being a Marine myself, you’re trained to react to a situation,” said Alan Bryson, the father of Cpl. Nathan Bryson. “He did exactly what he was trained to do.”
Per Federal Regulation code 10 U.S.C. 6246, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to any person who distinguishes him or herself by heroism not involving conflict with the enemy. For acts of life-saving, or attempted lifesaving, it is required that the action be performed at the risk of one’s own life.
“This award is something big. He risked his life, knowing that he could’ve died,” said Alan Bryson. “We’re a completely different breed of people.”