Three Coast Guardsmen awarded DHS Valor awards

Three Coast Guardsmen are honored with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary's Award for Valor on May 14, 2015. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Three Coast Guardsmen are honored with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Award for Valor on May 14, 2015. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

 

Each and every day, Coast Guard men and women conduct dangerous missions and are awarded for their bravery in the line of duty. However, sometimes the actions of these Coast Guard members go above and beyond what is expected, and they are recognized at the highest levels. Such was the case for Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Leon, Petty Officer 2nd Class Maxwell Kaczmarek and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Worden.

Earlier this month, these three Coast Guardsmen were honored by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and awarded the Secretary’s Award for Valor.

“The Secretary’s Award for Valor is the highest honor to recognize those who have put others before themselves, integrity and duty above all else,” said Secretary Johnson at the ceremony. “Like so many others at the Department who preserve our freedoms and protect the Homeland with integrity and respect, the Valor awardees performed well beyond what is expected, responding in extraordinary action to help another in need. It is an honor to shake their hands today and thank them for their selfless service.”

Below, read more about each of the Coast Guardsmen who were honored with these awards.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christpher Leon. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christpher Leon. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer Second Class Christopher Leon

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Leon, an aviation survival technician, saved four persons from certain peril during a night rescue 60 miles offshore of San Francisco on June 20, 2014. Faced with 15 foot seas, Leon deployed and swam to a nearby submerged vessel to prepare them for extraction.

One at a time, he grasped the survivors, jumped into the sea, swimming hard to keep their heads above water. Using brute strength he lifted each survivor into the rescue basket to safety. Between rescues he was swept away 500 yards from the vessel. When the aircraft reached a critically low fuel state, the aircrew attempted to deploy the rescue raft before departing, but it was swept away, leaving him to make a split second decision whether to retrieve the life raft and risk leaving the lone survivor in greater peril, or to remain with the survivor aboard the swamped vessel.

Leon remained, huddling to protect the survivor from the elements in the open ocean for over two hours until the helicopter returned for the final hoist.

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Worden. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Worden. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Worden

In October 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Worden, a machinery technician, responded to a catastrophic rock climbing incident in Silverdale, Washington, after his friend fell approximately 50 feet and was knocked unconscious after hitting his head.

Worden sprinted over 30 minutes to a location with a cellular signal to contact 911. He then arranged for a good Samaritan to guide Emergency Medical Services from the trailhead to the site, 30 minutes away.

After rejoining his injured friend, Worden placed himself beneath his friend, preventing him from sliding further down the hill, holding him for an hour and a half until Emergency Medical Services arrived.

 

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Maxwell Kaczmarek. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Maxwell Kaczmarek. U.S. Department of Homeland Security photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Maxwell Kaczmarek

While off-duty on Sept. 13, 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Maxwell Kaczmarek, an aviation survival technician, noticed a man in distress approximately 150 yards from the shoreline in McKinleyville, California.

Without any rescue gear, Kaczmarek immediately ran into the water and swam to the man to render assistance. When he reached the man, he realized two others were attempting rescue and were being pulled under water in the process.

Kaczmarek gained control of the drowning individual, who weighed 280 pounds, freeing the other two individuals to swim to the safety of a nearby raft. Kaczmarek then towed the survivor 50 yards to a small buoy and instructed him to hold on.

Once stable, Kaczmarek swam 100 yards back to the shore to retrieve a small inflatable and returned to the survivor at the buoy. He then towed the survivor 100 yards back to shore where he made a full recovery.

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