Two Marine pilots recently received commendation medals for their quick reaction that helped save a man’s life while they were waiting on their flight in the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Capts. Steven Maire and Joseph Carey were traveling home to California from the Marine Aviation Readiness and Operations Summit in Dallas on May 23 when they noticed a man collapse near the ticket counter, the pair shared in a Marine release.

“I was checking in for my ticket and I saw him on the ground and realized something wasn’t right,” said Maire, an AH-1Z Viper pilot and a Cleveland native. “That’s when [Carey] saw him and started heading over to him, then I followed.”

Carey, an MV22B Osprey pilot, didn’t see any medical or emergency personnel. The Hanover, New Hampshire, native realized he and his fellow Marine captain were the closest people who could help the man.

“We just got down on the floor with him and started to figure out what the problem was,” Carey said.

The two pilots, currently assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, made their initial assessment. The Marine expeditionary unit is part of 1st Marine Division and recently participated in the bilateral U.S.–Philippines Exercise Balikatan.

“The man wasn’t responsive and was very tense, so at first I thought it was a seizure,” Maire said. “We’re pilots ― not medical professionals ― but we remembered what we’ve been trained to do and just helped.”

The pair realized the man wasn’t breathing and likely had suffered a heart attack.

“He was unresponsive and not breathing for long enough that he started turning blue,” said Carey, describing the man’s face and lips.

Carey began chest compressions, part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation while the man’s wife gave periodic rescue breaths.

An airline official brought an automated electronic defibrillator.

“He had a very weak pulse, so when they brought over the defibrillator, I immediately hooked the leads up to his chest to use it,” Maire said.

Carey cleared the area before Maire used the automated external defibrillator to administer the first shock. When there wasn’t an immediate response, he used a second shock and more chest compressions. The man slowly awakened.

“When he came back, that was a huge relief,” Carey said. “It was just great to see what we did worked.”

At about that time, paramedics arrived and took over care of the man from the Marines.

“I’m glad someone was able to be there and help him, but it was very surreal,” Maire said. “One minute we were getting our tickets, then we were reacting to this situation, and then it was over, and we were worried about getting to the gate to catch our flights.”

On June 10, in front of 200 fellow Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, the Marine expeditionary unit’s commanding officer, Col. Sean Dynan, presented the men with the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

The medal is awarded for acts of heroism, meritorious achievement or service ― one notch below the Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal when combat is not involved.

The colonel noted how the captains’ fast actions embodied what he sees as the role for the entire unit, to be ready to deploy to crisis or ready to “be somebody’s hero” by those in need.

Squadron commander Lt. Col. Drew Bossart shared his thoughts also on his Marines’ heroism at the ceremony.

“Their quick thinking, exceptional teamwork, and unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of others epitomize the core values of our Marine Corps,” said Bossart.

“They’re true leaders who didn’t hesitate to take charge of a surprise situation and begin fighting to save someone’s life, and I’m extremely proud to serve with them and recognize their lifesaving efforts.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.