Group of Camp Pendleton Marines race toward wildfire to save crosses

Crosses honor fallen Marines

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - On this Memorial Day weekend, an inspiring story is emerging of a group of Marines racing toward the flames of a Camp Pendleton wildfire in a desperate bid to save wooden crosses honoring fallen Marines.

One of those 22 crosses memorialized Pfc. Victor Dew, the best friend of Cpl. Marvin Arnold. Dew was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Last Friday, the memory of Arnold's friend would come rushing back, fanned by the flames of wildfires on Camp Pendleton.

Arnold saw the fire charge up a hill on First Sergeant's Hill -- in the northwest section of the base -- and straight toward a memorial site with 22 wooden crosses, some 10 feet tall.

He knew Dew's mother was visiting the base on Memorial Day weekend to see the cross for the first time.

"I knew that it would be kind of a heartbreak if she wasn't able to see it. There was a sense of urgency," said Arnold.

He quickly recruited six other Marines and several trucks, and drove to the site. The Marines lifted the crosses, some 200 pounds, into the trucks.

They drove away, with the flames 20 feet behind them.

"It was about five minutes later the whole area was overrun with fire," said Arnold.

Later, Arnold emailed Dew's mother a photo of the crosses in the trucks with the message: "We saved Victor's cross just in time … literally made it just in time."

"I was flabbergasted. My heart just swelled with pride. For them to take the time -- and safety -- to go up there, it really touched me," said Patty Schumacer, Dew's mother.

The crosses will be put back Friday night, and Arnold said he'll personally carry his friend's cross back to its spot.

Dew's mother will be at Camp Pendleton Saturday afternoon.

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