MILWAUKEE, Wisc. --- Gunnery Sgt. Pete Vargo, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Green Bay, was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Thursday, August 2nd by Major Gen. James Bierman during a visit to Marine Corps Recruiting Station Milwaukee. Vargo was awarded the medal for his swift response and assistance at a vehicle crash on I-41 in Washington County that left seven injured and took the life of an 18-year-old.
Marines throughout Wisconsin attended the award ceremony to see him honored for the kind act he did out of uniform.
“This is well deserved and everyone here is proud to see a United States Marine step up like that in some tough circumstances,” said Bierman.
Sunday, July 8, Vargo stopped as soon as he saw there was a crash to see if anyone needed help. He immediately called 911 and started treating the seven surviving victims. He has been overseas on multiple deployments, but said what happened on that day was something he'll never forget.
"This one will stick with me. I tried to assess the priority of who's conscious, who's not conscious," said Vargo.
He made a special connection with one of the kids involved in the accident, 10-year-old John.
"Naturally, being young, he was panicking," said Vargo. “Being a father, no parent likes to see their kid that way, and I didn't like seeing him that way, so I wanted to make sure I got him calmed down, distract him, get his mind off of what was actually taking place.”
Paramedics cut John's shirt off and took him away, leaving his new Marine friend wondering who he was, and whether he made it, until he received a phone call from John and his family.
"He called me and said 'thank you' for helping him and 'thank you for my service.' I just commended him on being brave and again, being ten and going through that. That's hard," said Vargo.
This was just the beginning to their soon to be lifelong friendship. They were reunited on Wednesday, July 11 at Marine Corps Recruiting Station Milwaukee.
"John greeted me with a container full of cookies that they made and a thank you card, and I gave John a new Marines shirt, a sweatshirt, a few things to brighten his spirit a little bit and let him know , hey, you did a good job," said Vargo.
Vargo said he plans to celebrate birthdays and graduations with his new friend John, calling this a situation that puts life into perspective.
“It’s remarkable right? I think it says quite a bit about the Marine Corps. Being a Marine is a life of service. It’s a career of choice and you choose to serve,” said Major Jerome Greco, Marine Corps Recruiting Station Milwaukee, Commanding Officer.