A Hawaii-based Marine Corps lance corporal was given the service’s highest award for non-combat heroism last week after he saved a woman from a knife-wielding attacker in a Savannah motel more than three years ago.
Lance Cpl. Tercell T. Byrd, a rifleman with 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on Wednesday “for his heroic actions … in the face of significant personal risk,” a news release said.
Byrd, a native of Newport News, Virginia, was just four weeks out of boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island near Beaufort when he got to leave base on April 28, 2018. He’d been placed in a holding company after suffering fractures to both of his shins during “The Crucible.”
During his time off, he got a motel room in Savannah and ate dinner with friends.
The next morning he woke up late and was coming back from breakfast when he stepped into the lobby and heard screams coming from behind the reception desk.
”The next scream was just horrible,” Byrd said in the release. “That scream was enough for me to jump over the counter to go see what was happening.”
He sprinted toward the screams and turned through a doorway when he saw a man with a knife holding the motel receptionist by her hair. She had blood dripping from her hand.
”When I saw that, I realized this was more serious than I thought,” Byrd said. “That’s when I immediately went into action.”
Byrd ran, jumped, and kicked the attacker to the ground before pulling the woman behind himself to protect her.
“He was trying to stab me, and I was trying to take the knife out of his hand, but he was strong,” Byrd said. “He wasn’t normal. He was on something.”
Byrd repeatedly kneed the man in the head until he was incapacitated, then he took the woman to the stairwell and used a motel bed sheet to render first-aid to her hand.
The woman was rushed to the hospital after paramedics arrived.
”You can’t be scared to put yourself in a situation like that,” Byrd said. “You have fear, but you have to conquer that fear. You have to be confident that you can get the duty done. That’s what I did.”
Lt. Col. George R. Gordy IV, Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, addressed his Marines after the award ceremony, saying Byrd’s “actions contribute to the long, illustrious line of history that we all inherited as Marines.”
“In the face of danger, Lance Cpl. Byrd showed a significant amount of courage and fortitude” Gordy said. “Fight, win, then get ready for the next fight, wherever that fight may be. That’s what we do.”
The suspect, Darryl Kevin Morgan, was a former employee at the Days Inn & Suites on Gateway Boulevard of I-95 where the attack happened, WJCL reported at the time. Morgan stole more than $400 from the register but was later charged with aggravated assault and armed robbery when he turned himself into police.