Two US Marines based out of Hawaii has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for rescuing a soldier paratrooper who was blown off course into rough seas last year.
Corporals Justin Fugate and Lester Cano were partaking in a training exercise on an Oahu beach when the saw an Army parachutist drowning in a reef 100 meters away.
According to Cleveland, Fugate improvised a rescue line from two long ropes and leaped into the water, establishing an anchored relay point for Fugate and a lifeguard to swim out to the downed parachutist in what Fugate described as some of the roughest seas he’s ever seen in the area.
“He was pretty much out of it,” Fugate said, recalling when he finally reached the paratrooper. “His eyes were bloodshot and starting to roll back. He was pretty much in shock. Every time a wave came in, the chute would pull down and he’d go down with it.”
After finally freeing the soldier from his chute, Fugate began the exhausting swim back to the beach with Cano and the lifeguard. “I swallowed quite a bit of sea water”, he said.
The paratrooper was quickly scooped up by emergency services. Fugate recalled that the soldier “was a pretty tough guy” and seemed like he would recover quickly.
On March 30th of this year, Fugate and Cano were awarded Commendation Medals.
Fugate said that while he is honored, there was no hesitation about going in the water, despite the rough seas. “I just did what any Marine would have done,” he explained. “We thought fast, used our critical thinking skills, got a plan and made it happen.”
Fugate also pointed out that swimming isn’t his strong suit. “Actually, I’m a terrible swimmer,” he said. “That’s the funny part. I guess the adrenaline takes over and you learn how to swim real fast.”
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