The Marine Corps has an old phrase, Semper Fidelis. It means “always faithful.” This attitude of service certainly rang true this weekend, when 61-year-old veteran Donnie Navidad instinctively dashed forward to catch a woman on a 50 foot free fall inside the Oakland Raiders' stadium.
"He simply saved her life," Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson stated.
Navidad grabbed and embraced the plummeting stranger and the two slammed into the concrete together. The softened impact still left the woman hospitalized in critical condition. Paramedics cut off Navidad’s "Bo" Jackson jersey to access his wounded arm.
From the AP:
"I yelled up at her yelling, 'Don't do it, don't do it. Please don't jump,'" Navidad said. "And she started to descend and she let herself go."
Navidad said his military instincts kicked in as he lunged toward the woman trying to catch her.
"He couldn't grab and hold her, and that's what bothers him," his wife, Lora Navidad, said Monday. "He had no fear or thought for his own well-being."
Navidad said well-wishers have besieged him, including Raiders' hall of fame cornerback Willie Brown, who visited personally. Team officials came to his home, and he received a phone call from Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
Nelson, who visited Navidad in the hospital Sunday evening, called him "a hero."
Navidad, a father of four with 12 grandkids who works as an inventory surveillance worker for the General Services Administration in nearby French Camp, Calif., modestly thinks otherwise.
"They want to label me a hero, but how do you define a hero?" Navidad asks. "I would've done it for anybody."
Navidad served in Vietnam, and he claimed his time their and training in the U.S. Marines caused his instinctive reaction.
Willie Brown, Pro Football Hall of Famer, presented Navidad with a game ball autographed and stamped with the words “Salute to Service.” And closer to home, Navidad’s own granddaughter proudly said, “I think he’s the world’s hero now.”