Sitting on Miyagi Coast in Okinawa, Japan, is a well-loved establishment called Transit Café where people gather to eat and enjoy the scenery of Okinawa. It was Feb. 19, 2019, a normal weekday afternoon, the sun was shining, the blue ocean waves were crashing and Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, a military policeman with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler-Japan, and his wife were enjoying their meal. Meanwhile, Jillian Romag and one of her close friends were also chatting during their lunch break at Romag’s favorite lunch destination on island, the Transit Café.
The McClure family was relaxing and people-watching when a sudden movement caught Mrs. McClure’s attention.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. McClure asked her husband, looking towards the white bar. “I think she’s choking!”
Staff Sgt. McClure looked up to see Romag’s vomit splattering across the white floor. As she stumbled, grabbing desperately at her throat he rushed over, grabbed her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.
First Sergeant Jacob Karl, right, reads Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure’s, left, Navy Achievement Medal citation Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“Are you choking?” he asked.
“I’m going to help you,” McClure said reassuring the woman as he moved to stand behind her. McClure, an experienced policeman aboard Camp Foster, had rehearsed the abdominal thrust, commonly known as the Heimlich maneuver, yearly as part of military policemen’s annual training. After three abdominal thrusts, the chunk of steak that was lodged in her throat blocking her airway came up enough for her to remove it.
In relief and mortification Romag sat down.
McClure bent down, “Are you okay?” he asked. She nodded sheepishly.
After McClure washed his hands and arms, he asked the manager for rags, immediately cleaning up the mess.
On Feb. 22, 2019, McClure was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for superior performance of his duties while serving as a military policeman and accident investigation section chief Provost Marshal’s office, HS Bn, MCIPAC-MCB.
“This reminded me that there are really still good people out there,” said Jillian Romag, the woman McClure saved. “The Marine Corps takes care of its people and teaches its people how to take care of others.”
McClure’s exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, left, and Jillian Romag, right, pose for a picture Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“I think that any MCIPAC Marine would have reacted the same way,” said Col. Vincent Ciuccoli, commanding officer of HS Bn., MCIPAC, MCB Camp Butler. “In the organization that I am in we have a very diverse group. We have a common thread throughout, every Marine here has a bias for action, and every Marine would do something. It is one thing to say that you attempted to save someone’s life, but to actually save their life and have the bravery and skillset to do it says a lot.”
Marines aboard MCIPAC strengthen and enable force projection in the Asia-Pacific region by building bridges with their allies and partners while protecting and defending the territory of the United States, its people and its interests.
“I firmly believe with 100% of my heart and soul that any Marine who knew what was going on and how to react would have done so the same exact way,” said McClure proudly. “I work with military policemen who react to hard situations on a daily basis. I know without a shadow of a doubt that any of those Marines would do the same thing. The life lesson that this instance reminded me of is that you are forever a student. You have to be willing to learn and continue to hone and refine your skills. If you do have any type of certifications, or if you are recertifying, make sure you take it seriously. If you don’t have the training, go out there and seek it. There are programs through our U.S. Naval Hospital and Red Cross. We need more people who are out there, trained and ready to act when a situation gets hectic or scary.”