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Marine earns Silver Star for saving his sergeant

28 Mar 2008 | Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

 Though she won’t know it until she’s a bit older, Juliannah Roedema owes a lot to Lance Cpl. Moses Cardenas.

That’s because Cardenas, a scout with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, gave her the best birthday gift: her father’s life.

Cardenas was awarded the Silver Star medal during a ceremony March 29 at Camp Las Flores, pinned by LtCol. Scott D. Leonard, commanding officer of 1st LAR, and LtCol. Kelly P. Alexander, former 1st LAR commanding officer during the battalion’s most recent deployment.

“I’m honored. My lieutenant was just telling me about the magnitude of this award,” said Cardenas, 20, a Fullerton, Calif., native. “Not a lot of people get it, and a lot of people have died for it. So, I’m a pretty lucky man to be alive and receive it.”

Luck may have had some part. More likely, though, was the training instilled in Cardenas and the sense of brotherhood developed by the Marines in his fire team.

Cardenas and Sgt. Randy M. Roedema were on a routine early morning zone reconnaissance patrol with the quick reaction force last year in Western Anbar province in Iraq. They happened upon a vehicle which crossed their sector, so they moved in to check it out, according to Cardenas.

After repeated attempts to get the driver and passengers of the truck to submit to a search, three men burst from the top of the vehicle and opened fire. The Marines quickly attempted to bound back to their vehicles for cover, and to allow their turret gunners an open line-of-fire.

Three Marines were hit. Lance Cpl. Christian Vasquez was killed, and Cardenas was hit in the neck. After he hit the deck, he looked up and saw that Roedema was on the ground.

“I saw my sergeant laying down and I said, ‘Not today,’” Cardenas recounted after the ceremony.

Already injured, Cardenas began dragging Roedema to safety, but they had more than 50 meters to cover, so Cardenas alternated dragging Roedema with applying suppressive fire with his squad automatic weapon.

 “’You’re going to see you’re daughter,’ that’s what he said when he was pulling me,” said Roedema, 25, from Denver, Colo. “He saved my life.”

Cardenas was again hit with a round from the insurgent’s weapons, but he continued pulling Roedema until they we both safely behind cover, and only later, after a corpsman arrived, did Cardenas receive attention for his wounds.

Asked why he risked his life for Roedema, Cardenas answers simply, “He’s my sergeant; he’s the chief scout; it really didn’t register how dangerous it was. After sleeping, eating, and laughing with my fire team everyday, you get really close, like brothers.”

Roedema was treated and taken to medical facilities. Even better than the diagnosis that he was going to recover from his wounds was the news that he had just become a father, after his wife, Sharla, gave birth to baby Juliannah.

“Without [Cardenas], I’d never be able to see my daughter,” Roedema said. “Words don’t explain what he means to me and my family.”

Cardenas’ family watched the young Marine receive his medal from the front row at the ceremony, and couldn’t be happier with their son.

 “I’m very proud of him,” said Raymundo Cardenas, Moses’ father. “Since he was 15 or 16, he said he wanted to go to the Marines.

“It was a sad day when they left on their last deployment,” Raymundo continued. “We didn’t know if he’d come back or not. We won’t be as worried this time; he knows what he went through.”

Cardenas and 1st LAR are scheduled to deploy back to Iraq in the Fall.  When he returns, he’ll have with him a token of the Roedema family’s gratitude: a dogtag and cross inscribed with protective scripture.

“He’s a role model for fighting men in all services around the world,” said Alexander, Cardenas’ former CO. “We all want to be that guy.”

Cardenas was meritoriously promoted to corporal Apr. 2 at Camp Las Flores.