A quick-thinking Marine rescued a man from a car crash on his way to a ball

Quick-thinking Marine honored for saving life of car crash victim
U.S. Marine Captain Stephen Alexander was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for helping save the life of a civilian after a car crash. Photo credit U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Heather Atherton

U.S. Marine Captain Stephen Alexander, Executive Officer, Recruiting Station Dallas, 8th Marine Corps District, Western Recruiting Region, Marine Corps Recruiting Command was awarded, December 11th, 2020, for his actions assisting a civilian while driving to the 244th Marine Corps Ball in Elora, Calif in 2019.

At the time of the incident a 1st Lt in 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Lt Alexander and multiple enlisted Marines rendered aid in a potentially fatal car accident, Nov. 15, 2019, when a vehicle approaching on the opposite side of the road lost control and started to spin ultimately ending up on its side with the driver, who was the sole person of the car, unconscious and critically injured.

“Once the vehicle came to a final stop, I pulled over immediately,” said Alexander, “There was a vehicle in front of me that also pulled over with 3/4 Marines. I’d never met them before; they were from a different company. We all ran over to the vehicle; at this point the vehicle was on its side and the driver was at the bottom and not coherent.”

Due to damage of the driver’s vehicle, the Marines were unable to open any of the doors. Another Marine broke through the back window to assist in the rescue. Shortly after gaining entry to the inside, Alexander independently created an access point through the windshield to allow the driver to have head support from the other Marines. This allowed Alexander to apply trauma care.

“Once they smashed in the window I hopped in and started treating as many injuries as I could find,” Alexander said. “Every once and a while the driver would come back to consciousness and say he couldn’t breathe.”

The next vehicle at the scene volunteered to alert the park rangers. During this time Alexander and the Marines continued to do whatever they could for the driver. The Marines supplied Alexander with makeshift bandages and dressings to assist. According to Alexander, in that part of the desert there was no cell service and the nearest ranger station was roughly an hour away.

Alexander continued to treat the rest of the driver’s body and found his leg was partially severed. He used belts provided by the Marines as tourniquets and synched them down to stop the bleeding. Another Marine ended up providing an actual tourniquet, which Alexander used to treat the driver.

“…At that point we didn’t have tourniquets, we came to Vegas with our dress blues, not tourniquets or our emergency field kits,” said Alexander. “Had the other Marines not been there, there’s no way I could have acquired the things needed to treat him. I would have tried my best, but there’s not a whole lot I could have done once I got in the vehicle had they not continued to provide whatever resources they could find.”

After roughly an hour, the park rangers arrived, and shortly after them a nurse who took the lead on treatment for the driver. While continuing to treat the driver, the nurse also confirmed the driver had a punctured lung, which was causing his shortness of breath.

“We continued to treat him until roughly… two hours in,” said Alexander. “There was an ambulance that came almost the same time as the helicopter. At this point the vehicle is off the road and you couldn’t just put wheels down and just slide it across the sand. So I grabbed both back ends of the spinal board and ran across the road to the ambulance. They were just trying to get him to the hospital the fastest way possible. All-in-all for two hours of this you’re hoping you can get him out long before the two-hour mark.”

As an infantry officer, Alexander has been in multiple trainings, a deployment and many trainings for combat casualty care, but according to him no amount of training can prepare you for this type of real life situation.

“I think reacting to something like that, you either do or you don’t,” said Alexander. “There’s no Marines Hymn playing in the background as you run across the road; you just do something. You see that someone is in need. Once you’ve been stationed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms for a couple years you’ve done your Vegas trips, you know where you’re going to get your hair cut for the ball, you know where you’re staying so it went from seeming so routine to all of a sudden every minute felt like 20, it just felt so different.”

Four months prior to the car accident, Alexander suffered a traumatic brain injury himself. The injury could have killed him, if not treated appropriately. Through this experience, he understood the importance of immediate and proper care. In November 2019 he found the life of a man in his hands, treating injuries more closely related to his than he ever expected. The man likely had a traumatic brain injury, a severed leg, a punctured lung and multiple lacerations.

“I think Capt. Alexander’s actions that day were absolutely incredible,” Said Major Micheal Dorsey, Commanding Officer, Recruiting Station Dallas, 8th Marine Corps District, Western Recruiting Region. “We expect our Marines, 24/7 on and off duty, to uphold our core values and he displayed those values that day. The action that he took as well as the other Marines that day, takes a lot of courage.”
Alexander was never told which hospital the driver was taken to or about his recovery, but Alexander’s selfless act, quick decision-making and Marine Corps training will likely never be forgotten.

For his actions, initiative and compassion toward a civilian in need, Captain Alexander was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal during a ceremony held at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in McKinney, Texas on December 11, 2020.