BOSTON (CBS) — For the fourth time since the Boston Marathon bombings, a Massachusetts National Guard member received the Soldier’s Medal for rushing toward the explosions on Boylston Street.
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Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Curtis, 24, of Stoughton, was with three friends watching the end of the 2013 race when two pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring hundreds.
“The phone rang and he said ‘Mom, I’m okay. They’re bombing us,'” recalled Laura Deffenbaugh, Curtis’ mother after the State House ceremony Monday. “The second explosion happened, and the phone went dead. I kept calling and calling (him back). I was watching the news to see if I could see him and be sure he was OK.”
Curtis and his friends, Mac Luciani, Mike Jay and John Mackie, were busy tying tourniquets, helping first responders evacuate the wounded and securing the scene. While the Massachusetts foursome wasn’t on duty at the time of the explosions, they had served together in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2012.
“It was just kind of our instinct to go help. We kind of did it together and it was kind of a great thing,” Curtis said.READ MORE: Boston Police Warn About Drinks Being Drugged At Bars
The Army spent two years investigating their actions and verifying the aid they rendered. The result was Curtis being awarded the Soldier’s Medal, one of the highest honors for a military member during peace time.
The federal award was pinned to the infantryman’s chest by Governor Charlie Baker.
“This ceremony speaks to the nature of our National Guardsmen here in Massachusetts, who are citizen soldiers, ready and able to protect and defend the freedoms that we all share here in the Commonwealth,” Francisco Urena, secretary of the state’s Department of Veterans’ Services, told WBZ-TV.
More than a dozen friends and family members flanked Curtis during the ceremony, but those closest to the soldier know just how conflicted he felt about earning a medal at home.MORE NEWS: 9,909 At Massachusetts Schools Test Positive For COVID-19 In Last 2 Weeks
“He had a hard time with it, definitely,” said longtime girlfriend Natalie Falco. “To see something happen here and not (during) active duty overseas, that that could actually happen in our hometown” was unbelievable, she said.