OKINAWA, Japan – U.S. service members rushed to assist a Marine struck by a vehicle traveling northbound on the Okinawa Expressway on December 1, 2017.
“As I was driving down the expressway at about 4:30 am local time, I almost hit a vehicle that was flipped over in the middle of the road,” said a Marine who was near the scene of the accident.
The Marine pulled over to see how he could assist the affected vehicles. Moments later, another Marine pulled to the side of the road: Master Sgt. Hector Trujillo, a motor transport maintenance chief with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
“Master Sgt. approached and asked if we were okay. I replied, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to move my car,’” the Marine said. “I saw a pair of headlights out of the corner of my eye as I turned to warn Master Sgt., but it was too late.”
Trujillo had been hit from behind by a vehicle.
“After Master Sgt. Trujillo had been hit I tried to stop oncoming vehicles as they were coming toward us,” said the Marine. “I was worried that other people were going to get hurt as vehicles continued to pass and hoped that someone would stop and control the traffic.”
Aid came in the form of three Marines on their way to work, who pulled up to the accident and immediately rushed to help. Sgt. Justin Erler, a heavy equipment operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and Cpl. Matthew Dungan, a bulk fuel specialist with Bulk Fuel Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, administered CPR, while Lance Cpl. Eduardo Rosariomolina, also a bulk fuel specialist with Bulk Fuel Company, assisted and slowed oncoming traffic to prevent further accidents.
“It wasn’t the fact that he was a Marine that made me fight to help him, but when I saw his wedding ring on his finger, it became personal for me,” said Erler. “This man has a family and wife, and I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t get the dreadful message no one wants to hear.”
Erler and Dungan had both received CPR training prior to this incident; Erler through a Force Fitness Instructor training course, and Dungan through a Combat Life Saver class taught by Navy corpsmen at 9th Engineer Support Battalion.
“My mind wasn’t really thinking consciously, I reacted to the situation and relied on my training,” said Dungan. “I applied the [CPR] training I learned and hoped for the best possible outcome. We did what any Marine would do in that situation.”
Rosariomolina was able to effectively direct traffic with help from his experience guiding heavy equipment and tactical vehicles in garrison and during field exercises. This was in an effort to help emergency service vehicles arrive on scene while Erler and Dungan worked together to stabilize Trujillo.
“I feel better, as a person and a Marine, that I was able to help, especially knowing he would have done the same for any of us,” said Rosariomolina.
Trujillo was transported to Nakagami Okinawan Hospital for immediate treatment of his injuries.
“Thank you to the professional doctors and staff of Nakagami Hospital for caring for Master Sgt. Trujillo,” said Col. Forrest Poole, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3d Marine Logistics Group. “The Marines and Sailors in CLR-35 are comforted knowing that if they need assistance, the medical professionals on Okinawa will be there to help.”
On December 3, 2017, Trujillo was medically evacuated to San Diego, Calif., where he is currently receiving extensive medical care due to his injuries. Air Force Capt. Brandon Krupa, a pilot with 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 18th Wing, was part of the Air Force medical flight crew who flew Trujillo to North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego.
“We felt honored to help serve a fellow brother in arms,” said Krupa. “It was just awesome to witness the effort and focus exhibited by everyone involved. Each member had a unique skill set and by executing our specific roles and responsibilities, we were able to accomplish the mission.”
Trujillo, a native of Los Angeles and married father of three, has served more than 20 years in the Marine Corps. According to his wife, Maria Trujillo, he follows the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment in every part of his life.
“He’s a hard working Marine and he takes pride in his work ethic,” said Maria Trujillo. “He is dedicated to assisting his Marines to be successful in their work. He loves to motivate, inspire and guide them to self-mastery and self-discipline, not only in their military careers but in their private lives, too.”
Though he remains hospitalized, his condition is improving. Per the wishes of the Trujillo family, additional details regarding his medical state will not be made public at this time. The Marine Corps continues to provide for the needs of Trujillo and his family, to include medical care, travel expenses for the family, and continued command support.