MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C -- As Gary Cowart traveled the Parris Island Gateway on his way to Ron’s Barber Shop on the morning of April 21, he had no idea that his day was going to have an unexpected turn. The sounds of tires skidding, shattering glass, and crunching metal was the last thing he remembers before blacking out.
A retired master gunnery sergeant and current marketing specialist for the 6th Marine Corps Recruiting District at Parris Island, Cowart was turning into Ron’s Barber Shop on Parris Island Gateway when a Ford utility van struck him from the rear at a high speed, causing his Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck to roll over.
“I heard screeching brakes and I didn’t think it was going to be me who was going to be hit, most of my truck was already off the highway,” said the retired master gunnery sergeant.
Lance Cpl. Brian Janiec, a Fightertown Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting turret operator, was a customer in the barber shop that day and jumped out of the chair, mid-haircut rushed to see if anyone needed assistance.
“It was like an instant adrenaline rush, I didn’t even think about it, I just went straight for the vehicle,” Janiec said.
When Janiec reached Cowart’s over-turned truck, Cowart was coming to and Janiec assessed Cowart’s injuries while instructing him to stay where he was until help arrived.
“I didn’t want to risk pulling him out and have him suffering further injuries as a result,” Janiec said.
When the paramedics arrived on the scene shortly after the accident, Janiec explained to them he was a certified first responder through his ARFF training and asked what he could do to help.
“Even though I have been trained to perform in situations like this, I had never had a real-life experience before. All of my training came to me,” Janiec said.
The paramedics told him to put on some gloves and they started to tend to Cowart’s injuries.
“I was lucky Lance Corporal Janiec was there. If not, I would’ve tried to get myself out, which would’ve caused more injuries to myself,” Cowart said.
Thanks to wearing his seatbelt, Cowart’s injuries were not life threatening.
Cowart felt reassured he was going to okay, because Janiec was there with his rescue and Marine training helping tend to Cowart’s wounds and telling him that everything was going to be okay, according Cowart.
“Even when I couldn’t see, it was reassuring having a calm voice there letting me know that it was going to be okay,” Cowart said. “This was a good reflection on his training, not only as a part of ARFF but as a Marine as well.”
Janiec did the job he was trained to do, and all he cared about was making sure Cowart was okay, according to Janiec.
“I was really impressed when I found out from outside our command that Janiec helped out the retired master gunnery sergeant, especially since he didn’t say anything about what he did,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Bosley, Janiec’s section leader.
The event was life changing for both Cowart and Janiec, because neither knew the other was a Marine. Each of them concludes the experience was even more meaningful, for Cowart because he is retired, and Janiec because he is new to the Corps.
“Just knowing that I was able to help someone, gives me a lot of pride in my job and drives me to keep doing what I do for a living and motivates me to further my training.” Janiec said.