Sometimes all we can do is watch as tragedy unfolds because we lack the skills to respond or are nowhere near it.
Even if one has the expertise and happens to be near an emergency at the right time, it takes a special type of awareness to recognize what is happening and immediately jump into action.
U.S Marine Corps Sgt. Kyle Ubbelohde, a Waterloo native, demonstrated his all-around abilities, his drive to help others, and innate awareness the early morning of June 28.
He was driving to work at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, when he rescued a young child stuck in a drainage canal.
Because of his courageous response and heroics, Ubbelohde, 25, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal on Nov. 24.
“I saw out of the corner of my eye a red blob, essentially,” he said. “I didn’t realize what it was at first, and I saw it go from the top of the wall down into the water. I started piecing it together, and I realized that something was just not right with that situation.”
That “red blob” was child in a red shirt in a canal approximately four feet deep with water.
“He was not face down in the water, but with the height of the walls, he was not able to get himself out, and I could see him going toward the drainage system,” he said.
While he does not know how the child got there, he said the child was moving around when he leapt into action and calmed him down. Ubbelohde took him to the canal wall, hoisted him up over it, pulled himself out, and made the call for emergency services.
“I’m thankful that I was able to acknowledge that situation. It definitely made a difference in his life, and that family’s life,” he said. “When I see a situation where I can help out, I always want to do what I can.”
Once he got to his office and had time to process what had happened, he said he was “thankful” that he was there at the right time.
“I don’t really have that short of a drive to work. If I were to have hit a stoplight, or tried to go through a yellow light a little bit sooner, I wouldn’t have been there at the time that I was,” he said. “I’m just thankful it worked out the way it did.”
It was the second time he received a top military award for his quick thinking near the Marine Corps Air Station. In 2019, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal after he witnessed a head-on collision and extracted a person from a smoking vehicle.
Ubbelohde rolled the person into a position where they could breathe a little bit better, and waited there until an ambulance arrived.
Five years prior to the first incident, Ubbelohde was living in Waterloo.
He fondly recalls his time in the Cedar Valley as an avid outdoorsman, whether trap shooting at the Izaak Walton League, camping trips to Isle Royale near Lake Superior, or being outdoors with Boy Scout Troop 1.
Ubbelohde graduated from Waterloo West High School in 2014 and was destined for a career in public service.
At the age of 17, he joined the Marine Corps and in September 2014 left Waterloo for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.
From there, Ubbelohde’s Marine Corps career was nothing short of eventful, but eventually he found himself learning at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C.
He ended up in Cherry Point, North Carolina, in 2019 and is now a geospatial intelligence specialist with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Ubbelohde credits the Marine Corps combat lifesaver certification for his abilities to react appropriately to different situations. He also says his infantry training played a “huge” role in being able to remove injured people from dangerous situations.
As a Marine, Ubbelohde has learned how to handle stressful situations while keeping his composure.
“The Marine Corps does a good job. They stress you out and expect you to react properly,” he said.
Ubbelohde’s parents, Kevin and Cathie, still reside and work in the Cedar Valley.
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