Marines

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Raunedys Pena (left) and Richard Vergara (right). (Courtesy Photo by Matthew McDermott/Released)

Photo by Matthew McDermott

Faces of the Force: Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Vergara

24 Aug 2017 | PFC Samantha Schwoch Marine Corps Forces Reserves

Marine Forces Reserve consists of skilled warfighters who are not only prepared to serve their country at all times, but who are also prepared to support and protect their local communities as well.

Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Vergara, a counter intelligence specialist with Intelligence Support Battalion, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, and a New York City rookie firefighter, is one of the skilled Marines who serves his country and protects his community as a civilian.

Vergara used his military and former police training to prevent and restrain a man from jumping off the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in New York City, August 17, 2017.

“I saw somebody run across the off ramp and jump over the wall,” said Vergara. “I originally thought he was a construction worker. But when I got closer, I saw that he had no shirt on and appeared to be intoxicated.”

Vergara’s prior service as a police officer and his military training kicked in as he began to assess the situation. Vergara parked his car in the middle of the bridge to stop traffic and immediately dialed 911.

“When I was talking to the dispatcher, I saw that the man was trying to push his body over the bridge with one leg,” said Vergara. “I ran over to him, grabbed him and pulled him off the wall and held him down.”

Vergara was able to notify the dispatcher that he needed police assistance and an ambulance right away. He kept positive control of the situation until the ambulance and police officers arrived.

“When I pulled him off the wall I restrained his arms,” said Vergara. “I was kneeling down next to him, but I had his arms crossed on his chest and I put pressure down so that he couldn’t move them.”

Vergara was unable to communicate with the man because he did not speak Spanish. However, during the incident a Spanish speaking coworker of Vergara’s was driving past and was able to speak to, and comfort, the suicidal man.

“I used him to translate,” said Vergara. “The man was saying that he was upset and that he didn’t want to be here anymore. As he was speaking, I could smell the alcohol on his breathe. Honestly I think he was too intoxicated to even realize that I pulled him off. When I grabbed him I did it as quickly as I could. I don’t think he really even had time to react.”

Vergara proved that as a Marine and as a rookie firefighter you are never off duty, you are trained to react to a situation at any moment.

“I was infantry before this for nine years,” said Vergara. “I’m also a martial arts instructor-trainer, in those courses you’re always trained to overcome situations. To be honest, any training we get as Marines, and even while I was a police officer, better prepares you for unexpected situations like this.”