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By Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alvarez
Joint Force Headquarters - Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
Heavy rain relentlessly poured in Vermont starting on about July 9th. The rain led to catastrophic flooding across the state. In this dire situation, Ms. Marie Baril found herself caught in a difficult scenario while driving home. Her vehicle suddenly had a flat tire in an area where flooding was eminent and visibly encroaching around her.
“I’m not helpless, I maintain my own property, but I’ve never felt helpless like that before, ever,” Ms. Baril said.
As she opened the hatchback of her car to reach the spare tire, all four of her winter tires, which were stacked on top of the spare, fell into the road. She began to get anxious.
“I was panicking. I know nobody would have gotten to me in time. The water came up a foot in the 15 minutes I was there. That was scary!”
Two U.S. Marines happened to be driving by when they noticed the woman’s predicament, their military instincts alert to the dangers of the storm. Without a second thought, they pulled over to help.
Staff Sgt. Juan Padilla, and Sgt. Alex Marrufo with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment based in Garden City New York, were on their way to the Ethan Allen Firing Range (EAFR) in Jericho, Vermont, for training exercises.
“Sgt. Marrufo and I had just finished fueling our rental truck when we saw Ms. Baril open her trunk and the tires fell out. She started to yell for help and we went over to assist,” said Padilla.
Their presence, and willingness to assist someone in danger, saved her from a perilous situation. Their act of selflessness demonstrated the values instilled in them as Marines – protecting and assisting those in need, even in the face of danger.
“We were able to change the tire quickly and get Ms. Baril back on her way home. Unfortunately, by that time the waters had risen and all the roads going to EAFR were closed due to flooding. All the hotels in the area were also fully booked so we were forced to spend the night in the truck,” said Padilla.
When Ms. Baril arrived safely at her home after the harrowing flood rescue, she felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and relief.
“It scares me to think what could have happened,” Baril said.
Wanting to express her heartfelt thanks and let the Marines know she made it home safely, she picked up the phone and called EAFR. The call was received at the Battle Desk and Ms. Baril recounted the harrowing experience and how the Marines’ arrival had been nothing short of a miracle. A few days later Padilla and Marrufo received the message that she had made it home safely, and her gratitude meant a great deal to them. It reinforced the significance of their duty and the impact their actions had on people’s lives.
The incident caught the attention of the Adjutant General of Vermont, Maj. Gen. Greg Knight. Knight wanted to recognize the Marines for their actions and arranged for a small gathering where they would be presented with one of his coins. Their selflessness and dedication exemplified the values of the military community, and Knight wanted to recognize them for their exceptional service. Knight and Marrufo were unable to attend the coining ceremony at EAFR.
U.S. Army Col. Matthew Brown, Garrison Support Commander for the Vermont National Guard, presented the coins to Padilla at the gathering with Ms Baril also present. Brown praised Padilla and Marrufo for their unwavering dedication to duty, emphasizing how their actions had made a life-changing difference for Ms. Baril.
“I would have been stranded there with rising waters and no way to get home. I wanted you to know that act of kindness made a huge difference in my life. I will think of you fondly for the rest of my life,” Baril told Padilla.
Padilla felt a deep sense of pride, knowing their actions made a meaningful impact on someone’s life.
“We’re very very happy we were there and were able to help, and that you made it home safely,” Padilla told Baril.