The Holiday Hero

Updated: December 28, 2008

holidaydacI want to be clear that I did not write this to showcase heroism. Frankly, there was no time when I felt my life was in danger, so there was absolutely no courage involved. You cannot even round up and call this a courageous act.



December 2007 My Jack Russell Terrier and I are buzzing down good old I-95 at 2AM on the eleventh hour of my twelve hour annual Christmas pilgrimage to Massachusetts to visit my family for the holidays. It’s cold, there’s snow on the ground and I want nothing more than to end my diet of Red Bulls and to stop blasting Journey and Def Leppard to ensure that I keep myself awake.

An SUV zips on past me at probably 90 miles an hour. They quickly pass by me and disappear in the distance. Moments later, I find them right back in view as I come screeching to a halt. The SUV had collided with the divider and flipped over multiple times. It now lay on its side with the driver door facing up.

I flip the hazards on and bolt out of my car. The Navigator is pretty fucked up and I am expecting to see the worst when I arrive at the scene. I look inside and see two women looking back at me – completely fine. In a perfect world – or maybe even 5 years from now when I have bastardized the story – these women will be breathtakingly beautiful. In real life however, they were middle-aged, unattractive and the lightest one came in at about 230 pounds with the larger woman coming in waaaay above that mark.

Woman 1: Get us out!

Me: Ma’am, please stay right where you are. The paramedics will be here any minute. I don’t want you getting injured when you move.

Woman 2: We’ll be fine just get us out!

Me: Ma’am. I’m working on it. Just stay calm. Are either of you hurt?

Woman 1: No. I don’t think so.

Womean 2: Me either.

Me: Can you move or at least see your legs and feet?

Both: Yes.

Me: Great.

At this point about 30 cars are at a complete halt on the highway. Everyone is out of their cars looking at the spectacle. One hulk of a man jogs over.

Giganator: You need help? Let’s get them out.

Me: I think we’re better off waiting for the paramedics, just in case they have a neck injury or something.

Giganator: Yeah – that’s right. You sure this thing isn’t going to burn?

On cue, the vehicle starts smoking heavily. You can’t write this shit. I’m now in emergency mode. We need to get them out and they sure as shit are not fitting through the moon roof.

Me: Let’s get them out.

Without communicating, Giganator rushes to the side of the vehicle and cups his hands together. I use his hands to climb up on the vehicle. It’s slippery as hell because there was oil on the ground from the vehicle and it is all over my sneakers.

The front of the car now has a visible small fire going. No one else is helping us.

I try to open the door and it is bashed in something fierce. The window is broken so I reach inside where the glass once was and do my best dead lift impression. I rip the door right off the car and throw it to the ground (even in my panicked state, I remember thinking “That-was-awesome!”).

As soon as the door is off, I smell the booze. They are absolutely pickled. I’m all about being drunk – I am not about driving a giant piece of speeding metal through time and space without having any control of your senses. I’m a little pissed now.

I reach into the car and grab the driver, Ms. 230, by the arm and yank her out. It’s much harder than I expected because I cannot get any footing due to the oil and surface area, and she is completely incapable of helping me. There’s nowhere to put her, so I sort of roll her off to Giganator, who catches her and places her on the ground. The fire is getting real big real fast.

I reach in for the large woman and ask for her hand. She is heavy. I can’t get any traction. I ask Giganator to grab my foot and give me some support. He practically snaps the thing off, but it isn’t going anywhere now. I reach in and pull with everything I have and get her through the door. As soon as her waist clears it, Giganator grabs her arms and we collectively get her off the truck.

I jump off the car. No more than a minute later it is completely engulfed in flames.

Not a single person had come to help us. There were now over 50 cars. Everyone was watching. No one moved a muscle.

The cops finally arrive, and one of them walks up to the driver, smells her and says, “You’re an idiot.” After talking to a few people on the scene, he thanks Giganator and me for saving them and tells us he is going to open up a path for us in the traffic (which is now substantial) so we can get where we need to be. We both thank the man profusely, while simultaneously dodging thankful hugs from the drunks like Bill Clinton dodged questions about Monica Lewinsky.

Giganator stopped suddenly as we were heading out. Giganator: I’m Tom. Thanks for what you did.

Me: Shit man. If it wasn’t for you, I would have needed a stepladder and that would have been embarrassing. I’m Nick. Merry Christmas.

Giganator: Merry Christmas to you too, brother.

I jogged back to my car and hopped in. Diesel, my Jack Russell, was happy to see me. He was tired of all this accident bullshit.

I let Tom pull in front of me to go through the police assisted pathway to freedom when I spotted it on the back of his Ford 150 window – The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

Tom was a Marine.

As the holiday season approaches, we at Ranger Up want to remind everyone that you all do a lot of crazy and dangerous stuff for a living. The probability that you are going to die someplace other than a hospital bed is already not low. Don’t add to those chances by getting behind the wheel drunk. It is the absolute worst way to lose a serviceman, police officer, or fireman, because you guys all know better and you have the discipline to avoid these situations. Yes, that’s our version of a safety briefing!




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  2. James

    December 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thank the gods for the Corp. Funny that out of all those cars that stopped it was the serviceman that helped, says alot about those that serve and it is all good.

  3. Sean

    December 25, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Best safety briefing ever!

  4. Mark

    December 26, 2012 at 8:06 am

    You run toward the fire. They stay safe in their cars and watch. They don’t know how to act in a crisis, paralyzed by fear, because they have never left their comfort zones. I’ve been first at the scene of an accident several times, only because no one else had stopped. The second guy who came over at one of them was an off-duty paramedic.

    Well done, Nick and Tom the Marine. Merry Christmas.

    (political aside–the only hard-core institutions left are USMC, 75th Ranger Regiment and the rest of SOF, and they’re coming after them next.)

    • Alex

      December 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Shame you had to ruin such a nice post with such an ignorant comment. “(political aside–the only hard-core institutions left are USMC, 75th Ranger Regiment and the rest of SOF, and they’re coming after them next.)”

      The fact that you would say something so asinine shows that you yourself are anything but “hardcore.” Servicemen and women have values, and putting down their peers is not something someone with any kind of pride would do.

      Your a douche, and dumb one at that. As if you actually know what goes on at every base beyond the units you mentioned.

      68W Combat Medic 1-71 Cav 10th Mtn Div. Tell me I’m not hardcore. I Dare You.

  5. James Russell Carmean

    December 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I liked your recounting of this event. I have also helped at several vehicle accidents. I think we as Servicemen have been trained to DO SOMETHING. Many fear being sued or do not really know what to do. But we have been trained to step up. As for the comment about no one else being hard core BUT (enter your unit), I too am tired of that crap. I killed MANY gooks in combat in the US ARMY. I doubt they thought they were the best when I busted a cap in their ass. They did not know it wasn’t a US Marine, or a Ranger. I have helped to save a few Ranger men and my money was no good at their bar. I have worked with men of all branches and I respect them, but I do not feel second best to ANY of them, we all bleed the same and I have seen the results of various weapons, we all can die the same. I am proud of each and every one of us, we are special, we are warriors. Brothers ALL.

  6. CPT K

    December 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I’m reading this next week to my soldiers.

  7. Matt

    December 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Good job Nick. Similar thing happened to me several months back when I was on the way home from drill. A car flipped on the freeway and was traveling in the lane next to me, upside down sliding on its roof at 70mph. When it finally came to a stop I pulled over, popped my trunk, retrieved a few tools, and went to work. It was only then that I realized I was still in uniform…and I had amassed a sea of onlookers all with the “Well, this guy looks like he knows what he is doing” look on their face. Two guys came over to help. One wanted to tip the car back over onto its wheels and I told him to GTFO. The other guy and I went to work, extricated the passengers while fuel was spilling, and got everyone out safe. Fortunately it did not spark and the CHP and FD got their shortly after. Gotta do what you gotta do…

  8. Doc Sal

    December 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    As a prior service medic and a civilian Paramedic, I have seen carnage of all descriptions from someone who was always just lucky until I met them. One truth discovered in the last 20+ years is drinking and diving is just F*cking stupid and after seeing a few hundred lives completely destroyed by a few beers, it’s very easy to say it. There are lots of things much worse than death or a DWI/DUI.

    Great story Nick! I realize you felt in no danger but you stepped up to the plate when it was time and THAT if nothing else earns you at the very least a nod of long respect from everyone who reads this.

    I totally concur on the comments about HC vs. non-HC service men/women.

    I’m not down with seriously trying to impugn the “hardcore-ness” of any branch or unit. I’m happy to bust someone’s balls personally and level all manner of well deserved insults on the origins and heritage of any unit but my own but only for my own personal morale and entertainment. But the truth is I’ve seen a female Airmen step up and lay some 5.56 hate down of which I would have never expected in a million years just as I have seen a ‘Team Guy’ do everything but piss his pants under effective fire. There is an inexplicable 10% douchebag & 10% badass ratio in just about every discipline and service branch. The rest just do the job and usually do it well despite all how much they are set up for failure. Be assured in almost every instance, they (servicemembers) will almost always DO ‘SOMETHING’ when called upon… Case in point is civilians reading this will almost always read this and say to themselves “Oh my gawd, how terrible!” Past and present servicemembers will say to themselves, “Damn, I wish I was there!”

  9. Mark

    December 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Nick, I’ll ask you to yank my earlier post if you can–I had no idea I was going to derail the conversation from what should be nothing but praise for your heroism.

    (Folks, my comments referred to what I view as an attempt–especially toward Big Army–from outside elements to mold the armed forces into a PC place more in line with their liberal agenda. And I’m not the only one who thinks that, it was referenced in the CAL Annual Survey of Army Leadership (CASAL). Rock-bottom morale, people getting out because of it. Seems IN MY OPINION that only a few institutions have stayed relatively immune, referenced before, where toughness is still allowed to be king.)

    I sincerely apologize for starting a shitstorm, obviously there are hardcore men and women across the services. And Alex my comment was not a personal attack on your manhood–I think you overreacted.

    Back to the subject at hand, Nick I know you definitely are not the kind of guy to ask for it, but the Soldier’s Medal has been given out historically for precisely the kind of act you did. That would require witnesses–of course the people who stopped are out of the question–but if you could track down Tom the Marine. (Well, actually it’d be pretty easy to find two rather heavy-set witnesses from their arrest report… I’m sure they would have no problem signing an affidavit since you literally saved their lives.) Just a thought. Or I could submit on your behalf.

  10. SgtC

    December 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    It’s nice to see that despite the relentless ribbing and inter-service trash talk that we really can work as one and accomplish something truly awesome together.

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