Marine Corps Maj. Frank Alba Jr., deputy director of the intelligence directorate at Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, retired from his military career by receiving the highest award for non-combat heroism.
Alba provided assistance last year after a tragic collision on the first day of school at Tippin Elementary that killed a mother who was shielding her children from being struck by a car.
On Wednesday, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions on Aug. 13, 2018.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Alba said. “I feel strongly that God had me at the right place at the right time.”
At the Joint Task Force North headquarters Wednesday, Alba recalled the sadness of that day. He had just picked up his kids after school and was getting ready to get in his car when the collision unfolded.
Alba was able to rescue one of the children who was pinned under the car.
He said her backpack was caught on the undercarriage of the car, and she was stuck. Alba was able to free her from the backpack right before the driver of the car accelerated forward, striking and killing Kharisma Ashlee James, a nurse at The Hospitals of Providence and former staff sergeant in the Army.
Alba said he jumped into action that day because of the values he learned in the military.
“I think for any service member it comes almost naturally, that sense of service and sacrifice, and it’s what’s driven me for 24 years,” Alba said. “It’s what I’m going to miss the most and what I’m going to try to find in other forms.”
Army Col. Paul Gunnison, the Joint Task Force North New Mexico/West Texas Regional Support Team chief, said in a statement that Alba is respected, competent and courageous.
“Frank’s actions exemplify both the finest traditions of military service and compassion. He will be missed but will no doubt succeed in whatever he chooses to do,” Gunnison said.
Alba, who is originally from Austin, enlisted in the Marines in 1995. His military career includes two deployments to Iraq as a platoon commander and one to Afghanistan as a police and intelligence advisor.
Alba said he hopes to spend more time with his children and family after retiring. He’s looking for positions in both the military and private sectors and plans to stay in El Paso.
He’s also the upcoming vice president of the Tippin Elementary PTA and said he hopes other fathers get more involved in their children’s education.
“Whatever it is after the military and military service, I want it to be something that gives me more time to spend with family,” Alba said.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.