By Ms. Catherine Caruso (IMCOM)December 4, 2015
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- If anything was on Pete Vasquez' mind Nov. 27, it wasn't being a hero - it was food.
Food is on his mind a lot. Vasquez is a shift leader in a military dining facility - the Combs DFAC on Presidio of Monterey, where he supervises lunch service for servicemembers studying at the Defense Language School -- Foreign Language Center.
He's a big guy -- about six feet tall, with a build that belies his history as a veteran with 22 years of military service, first as an active duty Soldier (he was a cook) and later in the California Army National Guard.
So, it wasn't surprising that Pete and his wife, Christine, would spend the day after Thanksgiving driving from their home in Salinas towards the Ord Military Community Commissary to restock their pantry.
There was just one problem.
"I was hungry," Vazquez said.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about the Church's Chicken restaurant in Seaside when Pete and his wife entered the restaurant that day.
"We were actually headed to another restaurant, but then we saw a sign advertising the $2.99 lunch special, so we turned around," he said.
Vasquez ordered, then sat down at a table as his wife went to the restroom. Two families, both accompanied by children, were also in the store.
Then, a man entered. He was agitated and pacing.
"He said something to one of the girls, and the lady asked me if I knew Spanish," he said.
Next, the man approached a ten-year-old boy -- who burst into tears.
"Something just wasn't right," Vasquez said. "They didn't know him, you could tell."
That's when it happened -- as the two families began discussing what to do, the man grabbed for the boy.
"It happened so fast. I just jumped… I went for his neck," Vasquez said. "He wasn't leaving with those kids."
The scuffle was over almost as quickly as it started. Vasquez knocked the man to the ground.
The man broke his grasp and ran for the door -- but empty-handed.
"That was good, it got him out of there. That's all I wanted," he said.
Employees locked the doors, and Vasquez' wife called 911.
Vasquez said he didn't think about his own safety until after it was over.
"I just reacted," he said.
On the phone with a dispatcher, he collected his thoughts and provided a detailed description. Minutes later, police picked up a suspect matching his description a few blocks away.
He sat back down, and ate his lunch.
Others are calling him a hero.
"His actions are the reason we caught that guy," Sgt. Nick Borges, Seaside Police Dept., said. "It really was heroic. Very few people would have done what he did."
Vazquez shrugs off the accolades.
"I have granddaughters, a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old," he said. "I just hope, in this kind of situation, that someone would do the same for them."