Above, Beyond: Marines save girl's life

25 Jun 2002 | Sgt. Brian J. Griffin 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines train everyday for situations they could encounter whether in the field or in everyday life. During a recent port visit in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, June 21-25, two members of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (rein), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), came upon a situation where they had to put some training to use. While on liberty in Waikiki, Hawaii, First Lieutenants Brad Ellis, low altitude air defense platoon commander, and Mike McCoy, air traffic control team officer-in-charge, were having dinner at an area restaurant, June 22 after returning from field training earlier that day. The two Marines had no clue they would be handed the responsibility of saving the life of a Japanese child."We were just sitting there eating dinner and we heard this commotion," said Ellis, a Knoxville, Tenn., native. "I turned around and at the table directly behind us there was this family: a mother, father and their two kids. The mother was screaming in Japanese and her little girl was lying on the ground."We stood up and went over toward them and the mother was trying to breath into the girl's mouth," Ellis said. "But you could tell the girl, who wasn't any older than three, was choking." McCoy, a Salt Lake City native, was right by Ellis's side and observed the same situation."Everyone just gathered around. They were watching and looking, but nobody in the restaurant was doing anything," McCoy said.Realizing the parents could not help their child, the two friends took charge of the situation and began administering life saving steps."All I could think about was that I was going to see this little girl die. I wasn't going to let that happen," Ellis said.The girl's skin was turning blue and her eyes were rolled back in her head, signs she was choking, Ellis said. But the mother was trying to give the girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which was not helping to clear the girl's airway. "I tried to tell the mother to stop breathing into the little girl's mouth because she was choking. But the mother couldn't understand me--she didn't speak any English--and didn't know what to do," Ellis said.Working against a language barrier and a mother panicking to save her child, Ellis began to perform a modified Heimlich maneuver on the diaphragm of the girl, trying to push the obstruction from her throat.Meanwhile, McCoy signaled to the parents that the little girl was choking by giving the international choking symbol--wrapping both hands around his throat indicating an inability to breath."Finally we got the mother moved away," Ellis said. "I was able to perform a finger sweep, like they taught us during Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation training during our pre-deployment workups."I did the first sweep and felt something. I went back for a second sweep, deeper this time, and hit her gag reflex. She coughed the food up and her skin color came back almost immediately," he said.Ellis' selfless act didn't come without sacrifice, though. "She bit the heck out of my finger," Ellis said. "But we were just swept with relief when she started breathing again."Within minutes of Ellis and McCoy saving the child's life, paramedics arrived on scene and continued to care for the girl. Even with the language barrier between the two Marines and the Japanese family, a common bond was formed and they parted ways with the mother saying the two English words she knew, "thank-you."Ellis and McCoy are both currently deployed to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions aboard the USS Belleau Wood.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit