Okinawa, Japan --
NAGANO, Japan – U.S. Marine Corps Sergeants Ryan Cartwright, Tyler Rallo, and Scott Dike were enjoying the thrills of skiing and snowboarding in Nagano during some well-earned time off, but their day changed dramatically when they found an injured Japanese teen Feb. 11, 2023.
The three friends were taking the opportunity to hit the slopes following consecutive military training exercises in Japan. Reichi Sekiguchi, a teenager from Kyoto Prefecture, was also enjoying the mountain adventures with his family and friends when he experienced a sudden accident, severely lacerating the top of his head. Reichi’s father, Toshiya Sekiguchi, said “This happened when they were taking the second lift going to the “expert level” courses … he fell backwards and somehow sliced the top of his head on the edge of the snowboard.”
“I was about 100 to 150 meters away, and I saw what looked to be a child or a kid get in a crash,” said Dike, who was the first to notice the scene as it unfolded.
According to Reichi, he initially felt no pain and thought he could get back down to the lodge, but he and his friends quickly panicked once they saw a substantial amount of blood streaming from the cut, down his face, and dripping onto the white snow.
As the three Marines approached the accident, they began assessing for potential injuries and tried communicating with Reichi.
“I'm using kind of hand and arm signals, and I think he said he was okay. But then, we saw the blood splatter, and we started to realize he was actually pretty seriously injured, especially being how young he was,” said Cartwright.
Acting quickly, Cartwright and Rallo treated the injury with the first aid kit they brought with them, implementing basic combat life-saving skills that are taught in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Dike quickly made his way down the slope to coordinate with the ski patrol for follow-on care.
“As a Marine, we're constantly training to be there for the Marines to the left and right of us. I think it was within all of us – a natural instinct – that we should help this kid,” said Rallo.
Toshiya was made aware of his son’s situation by one of Reichi’s friends. “I was extremely worried about him, but I was told he was conscious, calm, and that foreigners,” the three U.S. Marines, “were treating him at the site,” he said. “I was super relieved to hear that. I met them at the base camp facility, and I only could say thank you. It made me tear up by thinking of them saving my son.”
Cartwright and Rallo stayed with Reichi all the way from the rescue team arriving and transporting him back to the base lodge. “If they weren’t there to help Reichi, he would have been bleeding out during the transportation to the bottom camp by snowmobile, then driving to the local clinic. I think it was very fortunate that they were there to help,” said Toshiya.
Reichi received stitches at the local hospital and has since recovered without any complications.
“Often when medical emergencies happen, you have minutes to provide vital treatment. Preparing yourself ahead of time mentally, physically, and emotionally pays off greatly when you need to take action,” said Cartwright.
Toshiya shared that he struggled to find the words in English to properly thank the Marines, so he invited them to Kyoto for a dinner. Several weeks later, the Sekiguchi family, with Reichi now fully recovered, were joined by Cartwright, Rallo, and several fellow Marines for an enjoyable night sharing food and stories.
“We were just there to help, but it meant a lot knowing that we can build a relationship with this family who we briefly met even though we’re from two different parts of the world, with different lives, but still came together.”