Matias Ferreira, 26, was driving through the Queens area of New York City on Wednesday when he came across a car wreck with a mother trapped inside screaming for help.
Meanwhile, Ferreira’s brother and father-in-law, who were riding with him at the time, rushed to get the mother out of the car.
Speaking to New York Daily News, Ferreira said: ‘With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act. Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.’
Ferreira had been driving along Cross Bay Boulevard, in Howard Beach, at around 8.30pm when he saw a car that had plowed into the central reservation.
The distraught mother was sitting in the driver’s seat, screaming ‘my baby, my baby!’ while the child was strapped into a safety seat in the back.
Ferreira said his training, and thoughts of his own 11-month-old daughter, prompted him to act.
While Ferreira’s relatives opened the driver’s door and helped the woman out, Ferreira ripped out the headrest on the passenger side and clambered into the back.
Without knowing whether the car was on fire, he risked his life to unbuckle the infant and carry it to safety, before firefighters arrived.
An FDNY spokesman said the infant was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition after the crash, but didn’t release any further details.
Ferreira has previously told Homes For Our Troops of how he joined the Marines following the 9/11 terror attacks, which he said affected a lot of his friends.
Deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2010, he said he was taking part in a routine patrol the following January when some Afghani civilians told them the Taliban had laid bombs in a particular compound.
While his fellow Marines checked for devices, Ferreira, a machine gunner, went to the roof with his team to set up their weapons in case the enemy attacked.
At one point, Ferreira jumped down from the roof to get the rest of their equipment and landed on a 30lb explosive device.
The bomb blast took both of his legs off below the knee, and the force of the explosion also fractured his pelvis.
He had to be airlifted from the battlefield by Black Hawk helicopter, and transferred to Germany for emergency treatment, before being sent back home.
According to various articles at the time, it took Ferreira a year to learn how to walk again and get used to his prosthetics, before being medically discharged from service in 2012.
Since then he has kept active by promoting charities involved in helping wounded soldiers, and supporting children who have also suffered an amputation.
He currently lives in a specially adapted house in Wantagh, Long Island, built for him by Homes For Our Troops, with his wife Tiffany and their daughters.
The pair married in a small ceremony in 2014, but are taking part in a second wedding today.
According to NYDN, he has just begun a five-year apprenticeship with New York’s Steamfitters Local 638 via the Helmets to Hardhats military transition program
As part of the program, he is learning to design, build and maintain mechanical operating systems in commercial, residential and industrial buildings