Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
For Larry T. Flesher, an electrical technician from Valdosta, Georgia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, started out like any other day. Flesher was driving over the Sneads Ferry Bridge on his way to work on Camp Lejeune when the unthinkable happened. Flesher’s vehicle struck another car in a head-on collision, causing his femur, arm and ankle to break.
He was trapped in his work truck when the engine caught fire. Luckily, Petty Officer 3rd Class Elizabeth J. Miller, a corpsman with Combat Logistics Regiment 25 and native of Boaz, Alabama, was not far behind him on the road. Thanks to her rapid response and quick thinking under pressure, Flesher was saved from what he believes would have been a certain death.
Miller arrived on the scene and immediately began checking the crashed cars for any injured. The victims in the first two cars were shaken up but stable with minor injuries. That’s when she looked over her shoulder and saw two Marines attempting to pry open the driver side door of Flesher’s smoking truck.
“I know that a redheaded female came into the picture,” said Flesher. “She took charge of those guys and told them to rip the doors off, and rip the seat out, and get me out of the truck, and they did it.”
Miller and two Marines were able to pull Flesher out of the car just in time. Those Marines were Cpl. Nathan A. Bryson from Cleveland and Cpl. David W. Qualls from Silsbee, Texas. Both Marines are Motor Transport Marines with the School of Infantry East, Headquarters Service.
“As soon as we pulled him out, that’s when the fire started coming into the actual car where he was and not just confined in the engine,” said Qualls.
Qualls described how Miller took charge of the situation and directed them to move Flesher away from the fire using blankets to keep him from more pain and injury. Miller then preformed first aid on Flesher for about 20 minutes while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.
“I know the Marines say they never leave a Marine behind and they didn’t leave me,” Flesher said.
When asked what was going through her mind as she treated Flesher, Miller said that she was just focused on keeping him calm and letting him know that everything was going to be okay.
“I was just trying to treat him the best way that I could,” Miller said.
Because of Miller, Bryson, Qualls, and the others who stopped to help on the bridge, emergency medical services were able to get Flesher to the hospital in time to save his life.
“I always stop, no matter what, if there’s a wreck. If there’s no EMS there, if I can do something to help, I do,” said Miller. "I would think that anyone would stop at a wreck.”
Bryson and Qualls were also humble about their involvement.
“We just consider it being in the right place at the right time,” Bryson said.
While Miller may believe that she was just doing her job and anyone would have performed as she did, not everyone agrees.
“Many stood by and watched, she took action and helped to save lives. Clearly she made a difference,” Col Kevin Stewart, the commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 25, said of Miller’s deeds after the accident.
Flesher said he knows how lucky he is to be alive and expressed his gratitude for everyone that was involved in saving him.
“I want to make sure everyone is aware that I am very thankful for what they’ve done,” Flesher said.
Flesher was given the opportunity to thank Miller personally when they were reunited during a touching phone call before Flesher went into surgery.
“You’re such an angel, I want you to know what,” Flesher said to Miller.
Miller replied, “Oh sir, I’m just grateful I was able to be there and I’m glad you’re doing okay.”