Project Hero: CPL Moses Cardenas, Silver Star Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, January 17, 2009
Al Anbar province, Iraq. Once one of the most deadly places on earth for US Soldiers and Marines was turned over to the Iraqi government because it has become a place of relative calm, peace and security. Things are beginning to bloom and work there. That is the case due in no small part to the effort by Marines and Soldiers who have fought and died there over the past few years.
This story is about a young Marine who not only saved a life and by doing so gave the new born daughter of the Marine he saved the ultimate gift.
The events took place in Iraq's Anbar province on Aug. 2 of last year. Lance Cpl Moses Cardenas said his platoon was on patrol when several men jumped out of a truck and started firing at them. Cardenas was a scout with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
It was a routine early morning zone reconnaissance patrol with the quick reaction force. They happened upon a vehicle which crossed their sector, so they moved in to check it out, according to Cardenas.
After repeated attempts to get the driver and passengers of the truck to submit to a search, three men burst from the top of the vehicle and opened fire.
During the initial exchange of fire, three Marines were hit. Lance Cpl. Christian Vasquez was killed, and Cardenas was hit in the neck. In addition, Sgt. Randy M. Roedema lay in the road badly wounded.
The Marines quickly attempted to bound back to their vehicles for cover, and to allow their turret gunners an open line-of-fire.
It was after a bleeding Cardenas had returned to the safety of the Humvees that he looked back toward the fire and saw Roedma lying in the kill zone.
“I saw my sergeant laying down and I said, ‘Not today,’” Cardenas recounted.
Sprinting across 50 meters of fireswept ground, cradling his squad automatic weapon, Cardenas finally reached Roedma. There, in an extremely exposed position, Cardenas administered first aid to stop the bleeding on the more serious wounds.
With both Marines wounded and under the sights of numerous insurgents, Cardenas knew if he was to save his friend he must evacuate both of them to safety. With his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon charged and a grip on his injured sergeant, Cardenas rotated between firing his machine gun and pulling Roedema across the battlefield.
One thing I neglected to mention. Sgt Roedema’s wife was pregnant and near term. Any day he would become the father of a baby girl.
“’You’re going to see you’re daughter,’ that’s what he said when he was pulling me,” said Roedema, 25, from Denver, Colo. “He saved my life.”
Cardenas was again hit with a round from the insurgent’s weapons, but he continued pulling Roedema until they we both safely behind cover, and only later, after a corpsman arrived, did Cardenas receive attention for his wounds.
Roedema was treated and taken to medical facilities. Even better than the diagnosis that he was going to recover from his wounds was the news that he had just become a father, after his wife, Sharla, gave birth to baby Juliannah.
“Without [Cardenas], I’d never be able to see my daughter,” Roedema said. “Words don’t explain what he means to me and my family.”
"I owe him everything in the world," he said.
Said Cardenas about what he’d done - "It didn't really register how dangerous it was, with all the adrenaline going," Cardenas said. "It's either they kill you or you kill them."
And he chose to ensure he killed them while saving his sergeant. Like most firefights, the incident was brief, only a few minutes. All the insurgents were killed. “We were all firing. I hope I got one or two,” Cardenas said.
For saving Roedema’s life at the risk of his own, Cardenas, 20, who grew up in Fullerton, CA was awarded the Silver Star in a short but emotional ceremony on March 29th of this year at Camp Pendleton.
LtCol. Scott D. Leonard, commanding officer of 1st LAR, and LtCol. Kelly P. Alexander, former 1st LAR commanding officer during the battalion’s most recent deployment pinned the medal on Cardenas’ chest.
“He’s a role model for fighting men in all services around the world,” said Alexander, Cardenas’ former CO. “We all want to be that guy.”
“I’m honored. My lieutenant was just telling me about the magnitude of this award,” said Cardenas. “Not a lot of people get it, and a lot of people have died for it. So, I’m a pretty lucky man to be alive and receive it.”
Cardenas’ family watched the young Marine receive his medal from the front row at the ceremony, and couldn’t be happier with their son.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Raymundo Cardenas, Moses’ father. “Since he was 15 or 16, he said he wanted to go to the Marines.
“It was a sad day when they left on their last deployment,” Raymundo continued. “We didn’t know if he’d come back or not. We won’t be as worried this time; he knows what he went through.”
His mother was also proud of him, but mostly happy to have him back. She said that though she initially opposed his enlistment in the military, she has learned to accept it as his choice.
"To me the honor is that he is still alive".
Of course that wasn’t the case for LCPL Christian Vasquez who was killed in the firefight.
During the ceremony, Cardenas choked back tears and wore a black metal bracelet commemorating Cpl. Vasquez.
"After sleeping, training, laughing and working with them, you get really close, like brothers, even more than brothers," Cardenas said of the camaraderie among Marines.
At the end of the ceremony Roedema, 25, embraced Cardenas and thanked him once again.
Speaking of his new daughter, he said, “I would never have seen her except for Lance Cpl. Cardenas. We’ll be in contact the rest of our lives. I owe him my life.”
"There is no telling what would have happened if (Cardenas) had not done what he did," Sharla Roedema said. "And I really do feel that (my husband) is here because of what he did."
Sgt Roedema has left the Marines due to his wounds, but CPL Moses Cardenas is scheduled to deploy again, next month, to Iraq. He has no regrets about his upcoming second deployment.
"I love this job," he said. "I've always been fascinated by the Marine Corps. I love it."
In future days, though, when Juliannah Roedema is old enough to understand the precious gift the bravery of that young Marine gave her she too will come to thank him for what he did. And that is why CPL Moses Cardenas, United States Marine Corps, awarded the Silver Star for exceptional bravery under fire, and provider of the ultimate gift of a father’s life to a little girl is someone you should know.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here, please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.
Y’know, if I saw a movie in which one man, bleeding from the neck, runs 50m over exposed ground to rescue another during a firefight, and the rescued man had a near-term pregnant wife waiting at home, I’d say the writers had gone a little over the top to make it poignant.
That this kind of thing happens in real life, and we never hear it in the old media, is just a shame. Thanks, McQ.