The local Marines, 34-year-old Master Sgt. Marcos Estrada of Chicago's South Side and 34-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Santiago of the North Side, have been awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat for their heroic achievement while serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Estrada led his Marines on more than 100 missions and faced several improvised explosives devices.
"I did what I had to do. I am not a hero. I did what anyone would do," Estrada said.
In the Battle of Mulla Fayyad, Estrada, a 17-year career Marine, ensured the destruction of 17 insurgents and successfully reinforced his company during the attack. He said he is proud to be representing his city in the billboard campaign.
"I am honored. It is a privilege," he said.
During an ambush, Gunnery Sergeant Santiago repeatedly faced sustained, automatic gunfire and grenades as his platoon fought through the streets surrounded by more than 100 enemy fighters. His courage helped to rescue other isolated Marines and their casualties.
" You cannot be selfish. You have to put others first. I did what he was trained to do," Santiago said.
Santiago also said he was excited about the billboard and pleased to represent Chicago.
"I am flattered. There are many men and women who are heroes and not recognized," said the Marine.
Estrada and Santiago were selected to represent the Marines and the city of Chicago because of their courage and commitment, as well as the example they set for others.
"A lot of marines are deployed, but their actions are above and beyond what was expected of them. On two different days, they saved many lives," said Sgt. Luis Agostini, who is a Marine, as well.
The two featured Marines are committed to giving back to their communities.
"I lead by example. My mother was my example," Estrada said.
"I believe in giving back. My brother is in the Army. My sister is a teacher. We all give back," said Santiago.
The Marines hope the campaign will show that there are people who grew up in Chicago, graduated from public high schools and have continued to serve their country.
The 88 billboards will be divided equally between the two Marines and will run for 16 weeks.