'He was my sergeant'
Although he was bleeding from the neck and under enemy fire in Iraq last year, Marine commanders say Lance Cpl. Moses Cardenas managed to reach his wounded sergeant and pull him 100 yards to safety. View a videoSemper Fi Lance Cpl. Cardenas. He represents what being a Marine is all about. He didn't do it for the medal. He did it because "He was my sergeant."
For those actions, the 20-year-old Cardenas received a Silver Star, one of the Marine Corps' highest honors, during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton on Friday.
The events took place in Iraq's Anbar province on Aug. 2. Cardenas said his platoon was on patrol when several men jumped out of a truck and started firing. In the battle, Sgt. Randy M. Roedema was shot twice and Lance Cpl. Christian Vasquez was killed.
Cardenas, a Marine scout, said he was taking cover behind a vehicle when he realized that Roedema was down. Then, he went after him. On his way, Cardenas took two shots that knocked him to the ground.
Asked why he risked his life to rescue a fellow Marine, Cardenas answered simply.
"He was my sergeant."
Though it seemed longer to him, the Fullerton native said the action took only a few minutes. Cardenas said he felt the sting of the bullets going into his neck and shoulder.
After hitting the ground, he got up, reloaded his rifle and kept shooting at the enemy, according to the award citation. He continued the assault until he reached his wounded leader.
"It didn't really register how dangerous it was, with all the adrenaline going," Cardenas said. "It's either they kill you or you kill them."
Cardenas, who retold his story to reporters Friday morning, said he was eventually able to pull Roedema to safety, and both were treated for their wounds. During the ceremony, he choked back tears and wore a black metal bracelet commemorating Cpl. Vasquez.
Roedema, 25, and his family said they are grateful for what Cardenas did.
"I owe him everything in the world," he said.
The day the men were shot, Roedema's wife, Sharla, was 8 months pregnant with the couple's daughter, Juliannah, who is now seven months old.
"There is no telling what would have happened if (Cardenas) had not done what he did," Sharla Roedema said. "And I really do feel that (my husband) is here because of what he did."
Roedema said that during the fight he was shot in the back and buttocks. He was unable to walk for a month and was unable to bathe without assistance for three months, he said.
Cardenas said he is scheduled for a second deployment to Iraq in September. He has two years left in his enlistment and has no plans to leave the Marines.
"I love this job," he said. "I've always been fascinated by the Marine Corps. I love it."