Marine lauded for heroic act

Injured Friday while collecting for charity at Augusta Best Buy
Cpl. Phillip Duggan puts together physical training equipment at the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center. The Marine reservist is a graduate of Cross Creek High School.

A Marine stabbed while collecting Toys for Tots said he thought of all the people inside Best Buy on crowded Black Friday when he tried to intercept a fleeing shoplifter.

"After we got him to the ground, and we got the knife away from him, I felt a pinch on my back," said Cpl. Phillip Duggan.

Only then did Duggan, a 2004 graduate of Cross Creek High School, realize he'd suffered a knife wound. His reaction?

"I can't believe he messed up my uniform," Duggan said.

The Marine reservist, who is currently on active duty, has been presented a new dress blouse by the North Augusta Marine Corps League so he can continue his assignment, which is serving at Marine Corps funerals.

A former teacher wasn't surprised to hear that Duggan stepped in to help.

Duggan was the kind of student who would stay late to build scenery for a high school drama production, said Leah Soderberg, his former drama coach at Cross Creek.

He was a fine actor, dancer and acrobat who played the lead in The Diviners and has returned since graduation to mentor kids, she said.

"He's got a good sense of humor and a very good code of ethics," Soderberg said.

Duggan acknowledged Monday that Marines are a "band of brothers" and that he wasn't acting alone when he, Cpl. William Washington, Sgt. Joshua Aurelio and Gunnery Sgt. Robert Ritchie took down a Waynesboro, Ga., man who'd just escaped from Best Buy security -- and had a knife.

Tracey Attaway, the alleged shoplifter, remained in the Richmond County jail Monday on armed robbery and aggravated assault charges.

The Marines don't expect trouble when they collect for Toys for Tots, but as Marines they always are prepared, said Washington, who helped hold the struggling Attaway down until police arrived.

"We don't go looking for the axis of evil; it just sometimes pulls out in front of us," said Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Smith, who commands the unit that has led the Toys for Tots drive in Augusta for 21 years.

The toy drive will continue, and the same Marines will be collecting toys around the area Wednesday through Saturday, the local Toys for Tots coordinator, Gunnery Sgt. Sherry Barrera, said.

Working through the United Way's Christmas Clearinghouse, which verifies all applicants for toys, Marines expect to provide toys to 8,000 children this year, Barrera said.

RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Cpl. Phillip Duggan, a Marine reservist who is currently on active duty, was stabbed in the back while trying to help subdue a fleeing shoplifter at Best Buy on Black Friday. Duggan was there collecting Christmas toys for needy children. 

Gemma May, 10, of Thomson, donates toys as Cpl. Gilbert Yates assists her at Walmart in Thomson. Collections around the area will continue during the holiday season. \nCpl. Phillip Duggan speaks to the media at the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Duggan was stabbed by a fleeing shoplifter at Best Buy on Black Friday. 

Above,

Shoplifting suspect stabs Marine, police say
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