INDIAN HEAD, MD. -- Tears stream down the face of a young man holding a shotgun to his chest. Sorrowful prayers emanate from his mouth as he whispers away all the options to live. Death hovers around this being; it's scythe poised. This time, however, life will triumph.
This story of the triumph of life is held together by calm decisions and action in the midst of extreme emotions. It is the story of how a staff noncommissioned officer reached out and pulled an emotionally troubled Marine out of a potential suicide on Sept. 13, 2005.
Staff Sgt. Carson B. Jeffers was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism during an award ceremony at the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) for actions in the face of adversity June 16.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the highest peacetime award for heroism. It may be awarded to any person, who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Marine Corps, distinguishes himself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. For acts of life-saving, or attempted lifesaving, it is required that the action be performed at the risk of one's own life.
According to the citation read at the award ceremony, Jeffers, 36, responding to a suicide attempt of a fellow Marine at his off base residence, found his Marine in a life threatening situation.
"The initial call from the Marine's wife indicated a tense situation," said Jeffers, a native of Montgomery, Ala. "I did what I had to do to get over to the house, but at that time I had no idea how the situation had escalated."
It was only when Jeffers arrived at the residence that he realized the Marine was in a truly life threatening situation.
"My Marines called me and told me how serious it [the situation] was as I was enroute," said Jeffers recalling the rising tension. "Then when I got there, it was obvious he [the Marine] had lost control. He said, 'nobody is coming out unless it is in a body bag.'"
Jeffers did not pretend to be superhuman as he recalled the incident, although the citation characterized him as having unfailing good judgement and effectiveness in defusing the situation.
"You can't print what went through my mind when I initially saw the weapon," Jeffers said. "I actually did not know he had a weapon until his wife moved out of the way. Then I saw he had a rifle to his chest."
"When the Marine started praying I knew things weren't good," he continued.
The citation continues by detailing the events surrounding the Marine lowering the weapon with which he was threatening his life and the life of others.
"I told him to relax," said Jeffers. "I then asked him to think about what he was doing. Then I said to him, let's talk about this, we can take care of this."
Without regard to his own safety, Jeffers' prompt action under extreme pressure directly contributed to saving the life of a fellow Marine, the Marine's spouse and the couple's unborn child.
"The only thing that was going through my mind was where his wife and three children were going to be without a father," Jeffers stated. "I honestly did not think about myself. His safety was at the forefront of my mind. I didn't want one of my Marines to take his life on my watch."
During a telephone interview, the wife of the Marine recalled the authority with which Jeffers commanded the situation.
"I said to my husband, he [Jeffers] is here to help, I'm letting him in the house. After he came into the house though I was sure my husband was going to do something regrettable although at no time did I fear for my own life. I believed he would never hurt me, but I was afraid he would hurt himself. But he responded to Staff Sergeant. I truly believe he responded positively because he [Jeffers] was calm yet spoke with undeniable authority."
Sgt. Stanley B. Daniels III, who had arrived at the scene before Jeffers, echoes the observations of the Marine's wife.
"I have to give Staff Sergeant Jeffers a lot of credit because the Marine seemed to only listen to him," said Daniels, the personnel chief for CBIRF. "I honestly believe if Staff Sergeant hadn't been there he [the Marine] could have killed himself."
Daniels, who has worked with Jeffers for more than a year, witnessed him adapt to the situation in order to have an effective impact and prevent a tragedy.
"He [Jeffers] actually shocked me because he put his drill instructor mentality to the side. He adapted to the situation and became more like a mentor."
Life has continued for the now former Marine and his wife. Courage on their part has resulted in new life. Nine months after the incident, healing is evident.
"We have a new baby girl who we call Jenny Lynn and she is the apple of my husband's eye," said the wife via telephone interview. "We get along so much better now. When I look...today I still see the man I fell in love with. My husband has the biggest heart of any man I've ever met, and I thank Staff Sergeant Jeffers from the bottom of my heart for what he has done for me and my family."
Jeffers was joined during the ceremony by his mother, Cynthia G. Jeffers, his wife Sengchita, and his two daughters, Carrisa and Cindy.
"I was so happy I couldn't smile," said Carrisa, who cried tears of joy during the ceremony. "People finally noticed that he [my father] is a hero. So many people are heroes but they don't get noticed. I was so emotional because my father did get noticed for his hard work."
Jeffers has since returned to his relatively calm life as the administration chief for CBIRF and his hobby of motorcycle riding, but will forever remain a bona fide hero in Carrisa's eyes.
"The reason he is a hero is simple," Carrisa said. "He uses his intuition and not what other people would necessarily say is the right thing to do."