Post Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela Manns, public affairs specialist
Swimming out to an overturned sailboat Seaman Kristin Reger was not thinking of anything except the man trapped beneath the hull. With a polypropylene line connecting her to the Coast Guard Station Golden Gate 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, her training kicked in as she battled four-foot seas to reach the boat.
The warm July day in 2008 and her dry suit did nothing to negate the ever frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay and the 25-mile an hour whipping winds pushing the overturned sailboat, Wing It, closer toward Hurricane Rock near the cove at Line Point. In a few short strokes, she reached the capsized boat and while talking through the hull she tried to reassure the panicked and trapped man.
Unable to swim out on his own, Reger devised a plan in which she disconnected her lifeline and attached it to an extra life jacket. Using a boat hook her crew handed her, she wedged the life jacket under the boat and directed the man to swim to her voice.
As she pulled on the line, attempting to free the man, his foot became trapped in the rigging from the upside down sails. Reger maneuvered the rigging, cut lines, and pulled him to safety as a Coast Guard 25-foot response boat recovered Reger and the man.
The rescue not only saved the man’s life but also changed Reger’s.
After her service in the Coast Guard she started pursuing a career in nursing, married the man and crewmember – Petty Officer 2nd Class Wesley Lunkley – who tended the lifeline and watched over her that fateful day, and was just awarded one of the highest medals the service can bestow, the Coast Guard Medal, Dec. 8.
Reger, who prefers to go by her married name Lunkley, is petite and willowy. The 29-year old spent almost two years at Station Golden Gate, and was humbled, by not only that rescue and receiving the prestigious and rarely awarded Coast Guard Medal, but her entire Golden Gate experience. She said she does not feel worthy of such a prestigious award, and added the award belongs to the whole crew.
“The whole crew deserves this award,” said Lunkley. “I was just the one who went in the water.”
“I wasn’t surprised that Kristin volunteered to go in the water,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brett Bonner, the 47-foot MLB coxswain from that case. “I had to deploy a surface swimmer because of the all the rigging. We had an extra boat on scene to create a controlled environment, and I had no doubt that Kristin was the most capable and qualified surface swimmer that we had on board for that case.”
Lunkley credits the rescue to her training rather than her efforts.
“We either could have done something wrong or something right that day,” said Lunkley. “However, it is because of all the training we receive that when it came down to it, no time was lost,” she said.
“The Coast Guard Medal was created in 1949, but it was 1958 before anything was worthy of awarding the first one. In all the time since then, there have only been just over 300 awarded,” said Rear Adm. Joseph “Pepe” Castillo, 11th District commander, during the award ceremony Dec. 8. “It is really at the very top level of extreme daring heroism and putting yourself out there to save others.”
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