MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
"It's a great honor," said Petty
Officer 3rd Class Nicholas C. Latham, after receiving the Bronze Star Medal with combat
distinguishing device, July 16. "But you would be foolish to think of this award as an individual merit.”
Fast forwarding nearly seven months from the December day that earned him the award in Afghanistan, Latham stood at attention, front and center of the same Marines with whom he served.
Latham's Bronze Star was pinned to the left side of his desert utility uniform, presented by Lt. Col. Todd R. Finley, battalion commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine
Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, II Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Latham was
serving under Finley's command when the event took place, Dec. 23, 2009.
"Will people think differently of him?" asked Finley, rhetorically. "I would think yes.
He's being publicly recognized for the actions that he took on that day to save the life of
a fellow Marine."
Though the award holds with it a certain esteem for the value of Latham's actions, the
corpsman observes a more humble reverence for the events that took place that day.
"This is my job," said Latham. "I'm a hospital corpsman, and this is what I've been
trained to do for years."
The events unfolded quickly, as Latham maneuvered with his squad to a covered position where they could observe and effectively engage the enemy. While in pursuit, a Marine stepped on a pressure-plate improvised explosive device, which resulted in the immediate amputation of both of the Marine's legs.
The Marine who fell victim to the IED, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Mackey, battalion sergeant major of 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines was given credit by Latham for maintaining everyone's composure after the lED exploded.
"He kept on laughing and making jokes, and kept asking for his Copenhagen," said
Latham. "All he wanted was his Copenhagen."
While it was Latham who moved under enemy fire to assist Mackey, assess the situation,
and revive and treat the wounded sergeant major, it was surely a brotherhood of Marines
and corpsmen alike that ensured Mackey's survival.
"It went so much farther beyond just what I did," said Latham. "The ones who continued
to suppress fire, the ones calling the (landing zone), the ones calling in the (medical evacuation) … those are the ones who stepped up and kept their composure."
Latham continued to emphasize his camaraderie with the Marines after the ceremony. "Whenever I am asked about this award, I will always tell about the great Marines that I
served with," he said.
Latham's initiative, actions and dedication to duty reflected an unwavering esprit de Corps not only to the unit with which he still serves, but also to the United States Naval
Service as a whole.
After saving a Marine's life in combat and receiving one of the most revered military
combat awards, one has to wonder what the future holds for Latham.
"Well, tomorrow is Saturday, so I'm sleeping in," said Latham.