A Texas Marine Corps veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart has died after rescuing two teens from drowning.
Master Sgt. Rodney Buentello, who served in the Marines for 20 years, including three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was spending the afternoon on June 8 at Bandera City Park in Texas with his family.
He saw a teenage girl walking across a dam fall off and get swept away in the Medina River, and then saw a teenage boy jump into the water to try to save her, according to KENS.
The veteran leaped into action, jumping into the water and saving both teens' lives. He lost his own life in the process.
"His last breath, he pushed the boy towards EMS," said Raul Buentello, Rodney's father. His brother-in-law William Vaughn said that once the boy was safe, the water took Rodney under. His death came days before his 44th birthday, which would have been on June 27.
"He went into the Marine Corps to try to emulate me," said Raul of his son, "He far exceeded."
Rodney, a father of three boys, also worked at John Jay High School as an assistant football coach until May. Rodney's loved ones said family was everything to him.
"He lived his life as a hero, and everything he did yesterday was heroic, in every sense of the word," reflected Robert Harris, the principal at John Jay High School.
"He followed in his father's footsteps, had multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and it was through the grace of God he came back safely and we were able to catch up several years down the road," Pete Pruneda III, a close friend of Rodney's from the Marines, told WOAI.
Pruneda added that Rodney's heroic actions didn't surprise him, as he had seen him save countless lives in the military.
The Bandera Marshal has said it plans to charge the teenage girl with violating a city ordinance for walking across the dam.
Rodney's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for expenses, and a vigil was held on June 9 at the high school to honor the veteran.