Marines from School of Infantry – East gathered after a motivational run to honor Sgt. Joseph Liefer as he received the Navy Marine Corps Medal for heroism for his actions almost a year ago after saving the life of a Marine while acting as a combat instructor aboard Camp Geiger, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
About a year ago during a training exercise, Sgt. Liefer a combat instructor with School of Infantry – East, put his own life aside to save another Marine when a grenade throwing drill went terribly wrong.
“During training, a Marine threw a grenade well, but didn’t make it over the grenade wall and it bounced back into the pit,” said Sgt. Joseph Liefer, a Newburgh, New York native. “Our standard operating procedure teaches us to grab the student and get them to safety, cover them up to protect them and that is basically what happened. My training took over and I covered up the Marine and we are both here today, unscathed.”
Liefer’s actions are a prime example of what Marines have done throughout their history, said Col. Jeffery Connor, commanding officer of School of Infantry – East.
“Sgt. Liefer, on that morning, went out to the to the grenade range, he had been out there many times previously, training students during his time here as a combat instructor, he was ready to do what he needed to do,” said Connor. “When that grenade dropped at the base of the pit, that was kind of a life defining moment for Sgt. Liefer and he could have considered his own safety first but that’s not what he did. He took care of the Marine that was there beside him and that’s what Marines have done throughout our history.”
Liefer and the young Marine did not let the near death experience keep them from continuing training.
“After the event happened, Sgt. Liefer and the young Marine went back into the pit and kind of dusted themselves off and made sure everyone was ok. Sgt. Liefer went back and accomplished the mission by continuing to conduct the training and making sure that the Marine understood the proper way to throw a grenade,” said Conner.
Carrying on a conversation with Liefer, one would never know of his bravery. Liefer’s humble outlook on the situation is clear and says it is not about him but instead serving the Marine to the left and right.
“I did not expect to get this award,” said Liefer. “This is our job; this is what we do as Marines. We take care of one another and look out for each other more than we look out for ourselves.”