A Marine drill instructor posthumously was awarded the highest medal for noncombat bravery for rescuing two women trapped in their cars following a car accident.
Sgt. Gary G. Wilson, a 33-year old drill instructor aboard the recruit depot in San Diego, California, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at a ceremony held aboard the base on Dec. 12.
The award for Wilson’s heroism in the rescue of the two trapped motorists was given after his death, as Wilson was killed in an unrelated motorcycle accident on Nov. 16.
The Orange County Register reported that Wilson’s 12-old son, Ian, was presented with the award.
On Sept. 18, while driving southbound on Highway 163, Wilson saw a large box truck truck “swerve erratically in front of him” as the truck attempted to avoid colliding with a line of backed up cars, Wilson’s award citation reads.
The truck still slammed into the vehicles at a “high speed,” causing “two cars to violently spin off the road into the nearby brush,” the citation detailed.
The engine of one of the cars burst into flames causing nearby brush to catch fire. Wilson got off his bike and rushed to the vehicle.
“Without regard for his own safety and at great risk to his life from the quickly spreading flames, intense heat, smoke, and the possibility of explosion, Sergeant Wilson broke the passenger side window with his elbow, reached his body into the burning and smoke-filled car, and pulled out the trapped woman, quickly carrying her to safety,” the award citation said.
After rescuing the first woman, Wilson ran to a second car that was near the first vehicle, with the car and brush still engulfed in flames.
“There, after finding the doors stuck and the woman driver trapped by airbags, and the brush fire encroaching, he pried open the door, pulled out the woman, and carried her to safety as well,” the award citation detailed.
Wilson was killed in November when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle off the California I-15 Highway.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Wilson,” Brig. Gen. Ryan Heritage, commanding general of the San Diego recruit depot, said in a command release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult period. This is truly the loss of a fine Marine, and he will be missed greatly.”
Through Wilson’s heroic actions on Sept. 18, which were at great risk to his own life, the two women were saved.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.