MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
A tall, wiry man with jet-black hair and an infectious smile sits relaxed in a simple chair. He’s calm, inviting, and well-spoken, quick witted and intelligent.
The room is clammy and humid but that doesn’t matter to him. He’s speaks intensely — more mesmerizing than draining. Though he’s just back from a day of diving, his energy level hasn’t depleted.
He’s shirtless, revealing tattoos that carpet his chest and back. The unique assortment of ink offers a glimpse into his life and personality — depicting spirituality, his Italian roots and military service.
Apart from his ink, one might not picture him as a battle-hardened U.S. Marine. His story and stare beg to differ. As Cpl. Marc Anthony Madding speaks, his steely eyes reveal life experience and wisdom well beyond his years.
Hailing from the approximately 76,000-person city of Brick Township, N.J., Madding never expected to become the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device for “heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy.”
After graduating from Brick Township Memorial High School in 2003, Madding briefly attended Rutgers University, where he studied electrical engineering. Having been intrigued by World War II as a youth, Madding soon became the first in his family to serve in the Marine Corps. His grandfather served as an Army pilot in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, where he was wounded and received a Purple Heart.
Madding completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 22, 2005, and then attended School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C. Following the infantry training, he received orders to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Upon completing two tours of duty as a mortarman with Weapons platoon, Company L, 3/3, from March 2006 to October 2006 and August 2007 to March 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Madding deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During his second post-deployment Warrior Transition Training, the regimental warrant officer asked for infantrymen to fill spots on an Embedded Training Team. Madding jumped at the opportunity, extending his enlistment 18 months and beginning predeployment training almost immediately, June 2008.
As part of the workup, Madding and his fellow ETT advisors underwent combat lifesaver training, spending time in between training events practicing scenarios and furthering their CLS knowledge.
He arrived in country as part of Embedded Training Team 5-4, 201st Corps, Afghanistan National Army on Nov. 19, 2008. This enemy was different than the one in Iraq, Madding thought, and before long, the ETT was in the thickness of battle.
“You can watch movies and think and dream about combat situations, but when they happen, it’s surreal,” Madding said, as if describing one of these dreams. “You can never really prepare for it — you just hope your training holds true, kicks in and you do the right thing.”
During a combined patrol with the ETT and soldiers from Viper Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, near the village of Darbart in Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 23, 2008, the patrol was moving off a mountain as their over-watch position came under fire.
Madding and fellow Marine Capt. John Farris were providing security in the northern part of the city when the call came. Three soldiers had received gunshot wounds and required medical assistance. With CLS training under his belt, Madding said adrenaline and a sense of duty called him out.
“Everything else goes to the wind,” he said. “The subconscious takes over from there and you just go.”
The two men’s eyes met and without a word, they began sprinting toward the casualties.
“As soon as I got out of there, my training kicked in,” Madding recalled. “I saw the dirt flying but didn’t hear the snaps of the rounds as they impacted around me. Things were working systemically and it all just made sense. I just focused on providing the injured medical attention.”
Sprinting 500 meters up Hill 1705 to reach the wounded soldiers was no small task. Despite being exposed to heavy enemy fire, they trudged forward across the open terrain. The hill was extremely steep and combined with a heavy gear load, Madding and Farris’ sprint turned into a slow walking pace. Eventually, the exhaustion left them dragging their feet.
As he described the situation, it was if he was running again. “My head was pounding and felt like it was going to explode,” Madding said. “My legs felt like they weren’t working any more. If this was any other situation, I would’ve physically needed to stop.”
Editor's note: This is the first installment of a two part series on heroism.