CAMP PENDLETON — Baby Nynette Pedroza will turn 14 months old next month thanks to the heroic actions of a Camp Pendleton Marine.
Luckily for Nynette’s mother, who lives in base housing, Sgt. Sergio Zacarias Jr. happened to live next door, when her daughter stopped breathing while taking a bath June 20.
At approximately 3 p.m., Zacarias, a combat instructor, Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry was enjoying a regular evening home from work.
“I was getting ready for a soccer game and walked past the window and saw my neighbor screaming, ‘Help me, help me!’” Zacarias said. “I ran downstairs, told my wife to call 911 and went outside. My neighbor was holding her baby up high in the air and didn’t know what to do. I took the baby and she was blue and unconscious. At first, I thought she was choking so I applied pressure to her chest and nothing happened.”
At that point, another neighbor arrived on the scene and began to assist Zacarias in conducting CPR. Carefully handling the baby’s delicate frame, the two were able to bring Nynette back to life and she slowly returned to her normal color, after nearly five minutes of being unconscious.
“As Marines, we all get taught to take initiative and lead by example and we get CPR classes periodically, so I knew what to do and how to assess and handle the situation,” Zacarias said. “But I’m a father myself and seeing a baby in that condition was shocking. Later I was thinking that, really, this could happen to anyone.”
Zacarias credits his quick reaction time to his three deployments to Iraq, where he was constantly on the ready during the takeover of Fallujah.
“Just like in combat, every day something different happens so situations like this are what we prepare for,” Zacarias said. “If someone goes down or gets shot, we have to apply our combat life saver skills so I knew to restore the breathing first.”
His command wasn’t surprised when they heard of Zacarias’ heroism. They knew that was just the kind of Marine he is.
“We couldn’t ask for a better sergeant,” said 1st Sgt. Daniel Santiago, Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry. “He showed a lot of courage and it says a lot about his abilities as a Marine. He really is what the Marine Corps personifies as a Marine and as a sergeant.”