California soldier honored for saving Afghan girl's life

The Sacramento BeeApril 6, 2011 

Pvt. Marcus Montez's first patrol during his inaugural tour as a combat medic in Afghanistan wasn't your typical first day.

While on foot patrol through Kandahar City, his unit heard an Afghan woman wailing in distress and rushed to investigate. His four-person unit found a woman clutching an apparently lifeless toddler.

Montez, of Sacramento, stepped in and began performing CPR on the little girl.

"I just started doing my thing," Montez, 20, a Kennedy High School graduate, said Tuesday, recalling the Nov. 17 incident. The little girl, given up for dead, began breathing thanks to Montez's effort.

In December, Gen. David Petraeus, overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, met with Montez to award him the Soldier's Medal, the highest award a soldier can receive for actions unrelated to combat.

Tuesday, several local military groups gathered at the All Wars Memorial at Capitol Park to honor Montez.

"Too often we have honored soldiers who have returned … to their final resting place," said Rocky Chavez, acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. "Combat Medic Montez did his duty and upheld the highest standards of the United States Armed Forces by his actions on that day."

Montez was also honored by the American GI Forum, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg's office and the members of Mexican American Veterans Memorial.

With all the tokens and accolades, Montez had to unload some to his parents, Larry and Julie Montez.

Asked about the moment the little girl started breathing again, Montez said: "I was like damn, the training is good."

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