Infantry Marine honored for pulling three from burning car

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general, 2nd Marine Division, right, poses for a photo with Cpl. Scott McDonell, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2d MARDIV on Camp Lejeune, Jan. 23, 2020. Furness commended McDonell for his selfless act of rescuing three people from a burning car. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler M. Solak)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Scott McDonell, an assaultman with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, believes in doing the right thing.

“When you are presented with a scenario where it is up to you to do what you can (to help someone), you could be the guy who just looks the other way,” McDonell said during an interview at the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters, Jan. 22.

During a trip to Wilmington to visit a friend, McDonell was faced with just such a scenario.

“I was driving up Market Street and saw a car was on fire after hitting a tree,” McDonell recalled. “I stopped my car, put on my hazards and went to help.”

As McDonell’s friend helped a passenger who was leaning out the window, McDonell moved to assist the driver. Upon stabilizing her, she asked him to help her friend in the back, who was unconscious. McDonell used his Marine Corps casualty evacuation training to act calmly and decisively.

“Normal protocol would be to not touch anyone since they could be injured from the accident,” McDonell said. “Given that the car was on fire, the best course of action was to pull them out and ensure they were safe, stable and away from the vehicle.”

After emergency services arrived, a victim asked McDonell to accompany them to the hospital. There, McDonell comforted the victims’ family members.

“I know, if I had been in a situation like that, it would be comforting to know that the person who helped me was there,” McDonell said. “I was able to give some of the family members insight into what happened and serve as a sort of stabilizer with what was going on.”

Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general, 2nd MARDIV, stated how impressed he was with McDonell’s actions during a brief meeting.

“You acted how we expect young NCO’s to act,” Furness said. “You look the part and you clearly acted the part.”

Furness also presented McDonell with a challenge coin and stated how proud he was of the 24-year-old Manassas, Virginia native.

“We try to instill a bias for action in our young leaders,” Furness said at a Jan. 28 meeting on the command deck of II MEF Headquarters. “In those situations, an imperfect plan executed now is better than a perfect plan two hours from now. All Marines are trained to be combat lifesavers and I am sure that training did him well.”

Furness also believes vigilance is important for all Marines, whether in uniform or not.

“We exist to support and defend the Constitution, but we also support the American public. As a Marine, it should be your action to commiserate and not look the other way. Clearly that’s what he did. … I’m quite proud of him. This is how you like Marines to act. It’s heartening when you see those actions from a young NCO.”

McDonell plans to reenlist in the Marine Corps and be a career Marine.

“What it boils down to is doing the right thing. Ultimately, you will know what the right thing is,” McDonell said.