Story by Cpl. Joey Mendez
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Five Marines were awarded for their personal acts of heroism during the 9th annual American Hero Awards, Oct. 28, at Sywanyk’s Scarlet and Gold Traditions in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The American Hero Awards are held by the CEO of Mainstreet, retired Army Master Sgt. John Reed.
Mainstreet is a Jacksonville based business development program that also helps, along with its sponsors, to support the Marines and sailors.
“Marines are selected through the sergeants major from the major commands such as 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, Marine Special Operations Command, and Marine Corps Installations East,” said Reed who is a Vietnam War veteran.
The Marines awarded, each in a unique way, saved lives in various ways by preventing suicide, homicide, or performing critical emergency medical treatment.
“The American Hero Awards are here to recognize five actual American heroes that effectively and actively committed an act of heroism,” said Reed.
The Marines were presented with a book from the Marine Corps Association, a challenge coin, a commemorative plaque and letters of appreciation presented by the II Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr., and the II MEF sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Bryan K. Zickefoose.
Sergeant Benjamin A. Dunlap, the awardee for the 2nd MAW, saved the life of an Army soldier who was having a seizure and soon after passed out and stopped breathing. Dunlap conducted basic combat lifesaving skills to keep the soldier alive until further medical assistance arrived.
“It is pretty humbling to be recognized amongst the caliber of individuals who also received awards,” said Dunlap.
One of the five awardees is selected by Zickefoose to be the John Archer Lejeune Award of Bravery recipient according to Reed. This year’s recipient was Staff Sgt. Mark W. Damm, with Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Damm was awarded for his actions during a mission in Afghanistan, when he led an 84-man assault that repelled numerous enemy attacks while Afghan police realigned security checkpoints. Damm directed friendly forces during numerous engagements and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, ultimately saving friendly lives and successfully completing the mission.
“I don’t feel like I’m worthy of such an award, but I will like to thank my command for giving me the opportunity to receive it and I would also like to accept this award on behalf of my entire team, all of whom who are deserving of receiving this award. Thank you,” said Damm.
At the conclusion of the ceremony the Marines, sailors, family and friends who attended enjoyed food, drinks and casual conversation. Next year Reed is slated to host the 10th annual AHA because of his belief in what the Marines and sailors provide to this nation.
“I do these programs because I don’t want to see these young Marines and sailors get [disrespected] like we did. It is really important that people recognize what they do,” added Reed. “I get emotional when we talk about our troops now because today’s troops are the ones who turned the views Americans had on the military into a positive outlook since the Vietnam War days and being able to recognize these five young men is a small token of our gratitude to them.”