On the night of Dec. 13, 2018, Lance Cpl. Kevin Grajeda was driving home from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, after a late night at work.
He was trying to arrange dinner plans with a friend when he witnessed two cars collide on the road in front of him.
His attempt to save one of the victims of the accident ultimately earned him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal ― the highest noncombat award Marines can receive ― and changed his life forever.
“I immediately thought I got to get off the phone, I have to go help these people,” Grajeda told Marine Corps Times.
Jumping into action, Grajeda called 911 and reported the accident, noting that one of the victims ― local middle school teacher Madeleine Hobbs ― was unconscious in her car.
When smoke started billowing out of the car carrying the unconscious woman, Grajeda knew he had to go in.
Without thinking of his own safety, Grajeda rushed over to pull them woman out of the vehicle.
“That was my only course of action,” Grajeda said. “I feel that that woman would have died in her car if I didn’t do anything.”
Unfortunately for Grajeda and all involved the danger wasn’t over.
‘Heard a crash’
Once the Grajeda had taken Hobbs to a nearby patch of grass, she came to and asked the Marine to get find her phone so she could call her mother.
While searching the area, Grajeda was run down by a red truck, driven by a man later known to have a suspended license and a history of drunk driving.
The young Marine turned to a see the red truck barreling toward him, he told Marine Corps Times.
“I heard a crash and when I turned and looked it was too late ― the truck was 10 feet away from me,” Grajeda said.
Everything went black for Grajeda. By the time he regained consciousness the truck had crashed into one of the cars involved in the first incident along with Hobbs and a second person who came to help, Tracey Legg.
Two days later Legg would be declared dead, while Hobbs had both her legs amputated and Grajeda suffered life threatening injuries to his middle and lower body, according to news reports at the time.
The truck was driven by James Henry Royster, who was soon arrested. He faces charges of failure to reduce speed, reckless driving to endanger and driving while license revoked for an impaired revocation, according to court records.
He has a September court date.
‘In a heartbeat’
On July 17, Grajeda was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal from Col. Brian W. Mullery, the commander of Combat Logistics Regiment 27, where Grajeda was assigned when the accident happened.
Grajeda was eventually transferred to Wound Warrior Battalion East, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and is in the process of being medically separated from the Marine Corps.
Despite the medical issues and a premature ending to his career as a Marine, Grajeda said he would do it all again “in a heartbeat.”
“Just because of what happened to me doesn’t mean it will stop me from ever helping anyone else again,” Grajeda said.