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There were a lot of rough days during Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF/PJ) Michael Marchante’s 2011 Afghanistan deployment with the I Marine Expeditionary Force, as the doc recalls it.
The one that stands out, though, is July 19, 2011 — a day that included Marchante saving a life under heavy enemy fire, an act that would earn the 26-year-old a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor.
Today, Marchante works in labor and delivery at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Wash., his second duty station since he joined the Navy in 2007.
“I wasn’t thinking about the gunfire. I wasn’t thinking about the [improvised explosive devices],” he told Navy Times while describing the incident. “I was just going out there to get this soldier, take care of him and get him out of there.”
It was Marchante’s second trip to Afghanistan with his Marine Corps unit, this time helping the Georgian army secure an area in Helmand province.
“After the first week I got there, I’d already seen a bunch of casualties out there,” he said. “This was a routine thing, and I just got into the mode of, ‘Hey, this is what I need to be ready for. This is what I need to be expecting at all times.’”
Marchante and his unit set out that morning from Patrol Base Didgori with elements of the 33rd Georgian Light Infantry Battalion to sweep for reported IEDs.
As the operation wrapped up, a Georgian platoon commander stepped on a pressure-plate IED. As soon as he heard the blast, Marchante jumped from his vehicle, and, along with his team leader and two explosive ordnance disposal technicians, charged 300 meters across the IED-laden field to rescue the soldier.
According to a Navy release, Marchante used his body to shield the soldier from heavy small-arms and machine-gun fire while he applied tourniquets and pressure dressings to the soldier’s wounds, which included an amputated leg and heavy shrapnel damage.
“Really, at the time, I didn’t really notice the gunfire that was going on,” Marchante said. “I could hear it, but I didn’t know there were rounds landing within inches of my feet.”
He didn’t take a moment to think until they had loaded the soldier into their vehicle and taken off for a safe medical evacuation zone, he said.
“As soon as we got in the truck, you could kind of hear the impact of everybody scrambling around, trying to provide cover fire,” he said. “After, everybody was just talking about how crazy it was and what happened.”
Official documents show Marchante was personally responsible for saving 14 Georgian soldiers during the eight-month deployment, which included more than 100 combat patrols and 50 convoys, caring for wounds from amputations to scorpion stings.
Marchante first deployed in 2009 with the I Marine Expeditionary Force, his first duty assignment after his 2007 enlistment, where he served from 2008 to 2012, according to Navy personnel records. In addition to his Bronze Star, he has earned the Combat Action Ribbon, Presidental Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation.
It took two years for the paperwork to go through, but Marchante received his Bronze Star on Oct. 25 in a ceremony at Bremerton.
“I guess it feels good to get a big award, but I don’t know,” he said. “I was doing my job, and I know everybody else would have done the same thing.”