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Local Marine Steps Up! The Rescue of a Little Girl at the 7th Annual Somerton Tamale Festival

7 Jan 2014 | Cpl. Uriel Avendano Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

"Positive anything is better than negative nothing." - Elbert Hubbard, American writer, philosopher and author of A Message to Garcia.

Throughout their time in service, Marines are often asked to define their identifiable traits. From the beginning, leadership building blocks and a strong sense of personal responsibility to country become embedded in the mind and spirit of a Marine as a means to reflect the long-lasting ethos residing within the Corps.

For Marine Corps Air Station Yuma based Sgt. Joshua Tyler Seabol, a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 aviation supply clerk, the opportunity to translate those principles into action came at the 7th annual Somerton Tamale Festival in Somerton, Ariz., on Dec. 21.

“When I first heard he had saved someone, honestly – I had to laugh a little bit. I asked him if he had saved a little girl trapped on a Ferris wheel or something and he said, ‘Yeah, actually.’” said 1st Lt. Andrew Burger, the MALS-13 assistant aviation supply officer. “That’s exactly what had happened.”

Seabol, an affable 25-year-old husband and father of two, was born in North Huntingdon, Pa., and grew up around the industrious city’s surrounding rural region just 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. His down-to-earth and approachable personality is immediately recognizable and mirrors the pragmatic nature of his upbringing.

“There were always a lot of kids around. I’m the oldest of five – and that’s between two parents who remarried, so there’s five of us between there,” said Seabol. “My parents, they were separated, but they had a really good relationship and made it easy on us. There was never really any friction that we saw…they had their struggles, financially, but they made sure we always had dinner and always had fun. It was a great childhood, all things considered.”

Like many his age, life revolved around staying active and playing sports. Seabol would eventually find himself enrolled at Norwin High School in North Huntingdon, Pa. There, with the blue and gold Knights, he would play catcher in baseball and quarterback in football.

He then entered the labor force at a local restaurant, Mr. Mike’s pizza eatery in Irwin, Pa. There, he would work his way up from dish washer to cook to pizza maker to waiter to manning the bar and managerial responsibilities.

“I didn’t really have an idea at that point what I wanted to do forever,” said Seabol.

One year out of high school, supporting himself and making good money for his age, Seabol looked around and wondered whether this would be the be-all end-all of his future.

“Working in the restaurant, I would look left and right and see guys doing my job that were like 40 years old. It was kind of like looking at my future,” recalled Seabol. “I wasn’t in college. So, I was like, ‘I’m making good money for a 19-year-old right now, but do I want to do this forever?’ And that just wasn’t it.”

The only immediate family members that had served before him were his grandfather, who was in the Coast Guard as a radar technician for C-130 aircraft. With no strong personal ties and even less personal references to go on, it was Seabol who sought out a recruiter.

“I was thinking about the military – and thinking about different branches,” said Seabol. “Me and my buddy were talking and we started thinking, ‘If I’m going to do this, why not do something I’ll be the most proud of.’ It was obviously the Marine Corps from that point on. I didn’t want to look back and wonder if I had what it took.”

In September 2007, a 19-year-old Seabol arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC., to retain values the Corps espoused and set the course for his future.

“That is something that my dad told me, too – ‘You will be able to say that, at one point in your life, you were doing something positive. No one would be able to take that away from you,’” recalled Seabol.

From the beginning of boot camp, the principles that serve as the foundation for Marines are always, consciously or not, at the foreground of the enlisted mindset. In uniform or not, the decisions made on a day to day basis are spawned at Marine Corps recruit depots and fostered in the fleet.

Six years into his service, exhibiting those traits in civilian attire was second nature to Seabol one Saturday evening at a tamale festival in Somerton, Ariz.

“Me and my wife try to make it out because of the festive food and everything. My daughter is walking, talking so we’re excited to get her out and do more and more stuff; it was a good opportunity to do that,” said Seabol. “On the way out, we decided to stop at the kids section and see if we could wear them out a little bit before the drive home. We were standing in line for a different ride that was near the Ferris wheel when we heard a scream.”

From his vantage point, Seabol could make out the abject terror of a little girl no more than six or eight years old. The shrieking sounds no parent wants to hear were coming from one of the top blue carts on the halted red Ferris wheel.

The hysterical little girl had managed to crawl out onto the ledge of the supporting arm of the cart she had just been on. Nearly 20-feet up in the air, hectic, moving around and in an obvious state of panic, the child was desperate and frightened as spectators watched the scene unfold.

After having quickly evaluated the situation, Seabol’s initiative decided to exercise some good old fashion Marine Corps judgment. A myriad of the 14 leadership traits jump-started his parental instincts and no sooner did he hand his daughter off to his wife was he up, over a guardrail and getting the go-ahead from the safety crew.

“The outer structure is not a ladder, but the steel is set up in a way that you can climb it if you have good footing. I tested it with my weight to make sure it was structurally sound because the last thing I want to do is climb up there and have something topple over – I made sure it could support my weight, and climbed up to her,” recounted Seabol. “She was pretty scared to just move, so I made sure I had a good grip on the structure and grabbed her and pulled her in as quickly and safely as possible.”

The little girl clung on to Seabol as he made his way down. A crew member took hold of the girl as soon as she was within reach while Seabol stayed on the beams ensuring another crew member, positioned inside the structure, also made it down safely.

“They kept moving the ride after that. What I think happened was, the kids were probably rocking it or something like that to where it got stuck. I was watching it after that, and those carts don’t really move much on their own, they stay pretty level. So I’m thinking the kids inside were probably rocking it in some sort of way,” said Seabol. “I’m not sure what it was. Right after those kids stuck got off, some people got out of line, but there were a couple of other kids who got right back on.”

The mother of the unidentified little girl was quick to comfort her daughter and thanked Seabol for his actions. Gratitude shared between two parents who could appreciate the gravity of the precious cargo he had just carried to safety. Currently, Seabol has two kids of his own in Valentina, who will be turning two in February, and son Aaron, born just this past October, with his wife, Sgt. Isamar Seabol, of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121.

“From what I know of him as a person, he’s a top tier husband and father,” said Capt. Jason P. Wood, MALS-13 aviation supply officer-in-charge. “He’s a model citizen.”

For his part, Seabol has kept the whole matter in humble perspective. He downplays the size of the Ferris wheel and reiterates the idea of being at the right place at the right time with straightforward sincerity.

“I think most of the Marines and sailors I’ve served with would have done the same thing. I think most people, in general, would have done the same thing… I don’t think it’s anything too incredible or nothing like that; I was just there at that time,” said Seabol. “You can’t hesitate, but you also can’t make the situation worse. Once you assess the situation and use your judgment, just try to be as helpful as you can.”

Setting the example, whether off or on duty, is one part of what it means to be a Marine in today’s Corps. Stepping up, taking the initiative and being a dependable member of the local community whenever the time calls for it.

“That’s the caliber of NCO the Marine Corps is trying to get and continue to keep,” added Burger.
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