Lt. Col. JC Lontoc, Commander, 4th Scout Ranger Battalion (4SRB), recalled, “My combined troops met the worst battle of their lives, with two of them making the ultimate sacrifice either of them could ever give – their lives.”
On the 10th of September 2017, we were engaged in a heavy firefight with the enemies in the pursuit of our objectives – to clear the buildings and to move forward while clearing the vicinity, sector by sector, in the MBA of Marawi City. We were supported by the armor units, the 105mm howitzers, and the FA-50 Jet Fighters in our operations.
Our troops sustained a number of wounded men and two KIAs. One of them was the late Cpt Sandoval, who did an exceptional act of courage by saving one of his men, at the cost of his own life, during the ongoing Battle of Marawi.
In our clearing operation of a five-storey building, we started from the fifth floor going down to the first. Upon reaching the ground floor, three of our men were fired at by terrorists, who were hiding in one corner of the building. The three engaged the enemy while the rest maneuvered to fall back and regroup on the third floor. Unfortunately, Corporal J.M. was hit by a bullet in his right arm and suffered injuries from a grenade blast. Cpt Sandoval saw Cpl J.M., who was hit twice, fall to the ground. Assessing Cpl J.M.’s critical condition, Cpt Sandoval acted on his own and rushed to rescue his wounded trooper alone.
As their Battalion Commander, Cpt Sandoval informed me about the critical situation they were in through radio communication. While he did the SOPs of reporting the current situation, he also intimated his desire to rescue his trooper.
Seeing a blind spot in the terrorists’ offense, he crossed to the adjacent building on the eastern portion. He crawled through the holes toward the location of Cpl J.M. Another soldier witnessed his efforts, and our other team members provided him with cover fire and threw hand grenades to divert the attention of the enemies crowding the place.
Cpt Sandoval maneuvered his way until he found the wounded Cpl J.M. As with the usual SOP, he tried to drag Cpl J.M. to safety for immediate medical evacuation, but he was spotted by the enemy and fired at. We never saw Cpt Sandoval burst into anger or yell at the enemy, though he was fatally wounded on his neck. In his dying moments, he was able to summon all his remaining strength to cover Cpl J.M.’s body from the enemy’s volley of fire, sustaining all the bullets himself.
Another of our personnel, Pfc Sherwin Canapi, who covered Cpt Sandoval, was also shot at by the enemies repeatedly, instantly killing him.
On that day, two brave men fought to their deaths and offered their own lives for their fellow soldiers and the Filipino nation. There is no greater sacrifice that a soldier can give other than laying down his own life in the service of his country.
(This entry is part of Chapter 3: Stories from the Frontline.)