Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Cpl. Carlos Torres has a quiet spirit and is a man of few words. He is not arrogant, but he is proud of what he does.
Torres, infantryman, Company D., 1st Tank Battalion and double leg amputee, was named Marine of the Year for 1st Marine Division while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.
He is humble and almost casual about the award. He is still positive, even after losing his legs.
Torres grew up wanting to be a Marine, a tanker to be exact. He knew he needed to move on from his hometown of Inglewood, Calif., he said.
He decided to go in the infantry when there wasn’t an opportunity to sign up as a tanker, but ended up being assigned to 1st Tank Battalion anyway as an infantryman.
When Torres found out about the award, it didn’t faze him too much. “I love my job,” he said, simply.
He reenlisted during the same deployment that cost him his legs.
The fateful day of the attack, and how Torez reacted to its consequences, reinforced 1st Marine Division’s choice to name Torres with Marine of the Year.
Two weeks before his scheduled return home to the states, Torres and his squad patrolled through a familiar compound. The group had taken the route more than once. Torres rounded a corner of a building when a sudden flash took everyone by surprise.
“I had a guy in front of me, [sweeping for mines], I look back, and as soon as I turned around, I got knocked out,” Torres said. “After a couple seconds, I woke up, I was looking around, and everyone was crouching. I looked down.”
Torres’ best friend, who happened to also be his corpsman, saved his life and his knees.
“It was surreal. I didn’t believe what just happened. It was intense,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Raphael J. Holthaus, hospital corpsman, 1st Tanks. “I knew I had to go directly through that dust cloud to get to him. I didn’t know how bad it was going to be once I got through there.
“It was probably the scariest moment of my life. That explosion, that close. It affected me greatly. Because he is such a good friend of mine, I had to stop and take a breather once we got him on the bird.”
Holthaus recalled personally stepping over the same spot where the IED was buried. Other Marines stepped over the spot without it exploding, too.
Although Torres was greatly affected physically by the blast, he kept a positive and inspiring attitude throughout his continuing recovery.
“I just kept telling myself I was going to be fine. There are prosthetics out there. I’ll get the best medical care,” he said. “It sucks, because I can’t do my job like I used to, but it happened. You just got to learn to deal with it and make the best out of it.”
Torres was presented with a noncommissioned officers sword in front his 1st Tank brothers March 16 during the ceremony officially naming him as the Marine of the Year.
He went on to race in the Los Angeles Marathon Saturday during the hand cycling event, and finished with a time of 2 hours, 38 minutes.
He plans to beat that time during the San Diego Marathon June 3.
Although it was Torres’ leadership and love for the Corps that earned him the nomination for the annual recognition, it was how he reacted to the explosion and his unfailing positive attitude during his recovery that serve as an inspiration to his Marine family and others who hear his story.
“You can’t stop this guy, he will just push on. He is a man of few words, but his actions speak louder,” Houlthaus said.