Marine helps rescue human trafficking victims

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 1:31 PM EDT
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - A Marine Corps reserve officer in Virginia is being hailed as a hero.

He earned a medal for helping rescue multiple young women in a suspected human trafficking operation.

A few dozen U.S. Marines were in Alexandria the weekend of May 5, in town for their annual physical at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“Pullups, plank and a three-mile run, so everyone wanted to get a good rest that night,” said Col. John Cowart, Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Advisor Company A.

Instead of shuteye, one reserve officer’s eyes were wide open to signs of crime.

“(He) saw a young lady who seemed to be acting a bit differently, was dressed a bit differently, and he saw a ‘13′ tattooed on her arm, which really set off his alarm bells,” Cowart said.

He says Marines who deploy around the world are trained to watch for human trafficking.

“Everyone knows that when you see a victim like that, it could be somebody’s sister, it’s somebody’s daughter,” Cowart said.

The reserve officer, who is not being identified, kept watching the young woman when she was picked up and then followed the car to a nearby location.

“Our Marine officer saw her getting in the car and knew we were about to lose contact,” Cowart said.

According to the Marine Corps, the brave officer called for backup, eventually entered the building and found not only the first young woman but more victims and drugs.

That was around 1 in the morning, with the physical scheduled for 6 a.m.

The Marine still took it and passed.

He was presented with a medal for his actions that same weekend.

“When I looked at him and pinned that award on his chest, I said, ‘Look, we don’t know where these young ladies came from, we don’t know their family situation, but right now, maybe there’s a grandmother, great-grandmother in heaven looking down, and she was cheering you on, all the way,’” Cowart said.

Authorities believe the human trafficking operation was a transnational enterprise.