With contributions from Petty Officer 3rd Class Caleb Critchfield.
While the Coast Guard’s missions have expanded and evolved over the years, most notably following the 9-11 attacks, lifesaving is at the core of who we are and what we do as a service. So, it is little surprise that the awarding of the Silver Lifesaving Medal to two Coast Guardsmen was made by none other than the Pacific Area Commander Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown.
“The Silver Lifesaving Medal is one of the Coast Guard’s most coveted awards and one that perhaps best represents the history and legacy of our service,” said Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area. “Perhaps the only honor greater than receiving the medal is a commanding officer’s privilege to pin it on a member of his or her command.”
Petty Officers 2nd Class Erik Conatser and Ramu Linksy were on liberty from Coast Guard Cutter Waesche and rafting the American River with friends when they spotted 14-year-old Chris Williams struggling to stay afloat after diving into the river from a 40-foot high pedestrian bridge with no life jacket.
As Williams was being swept under water, Conatser and Linsky jumped into the water after him and swam about 300 yards before they felt Williams’ body below them. Conatser and Linsky pulled Williams to shore where they discovered Williams was no longer breathing and did not have a pulse. They administered CPR for about three minutes before Williams started to breathe again.
“I was glad to finally have the opportunity to thank the men who saved me, in person,” said Williams, clearly overwhelmed by the ceremony.
The Silver Lifesaving Medal is awarded by the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck or other perils of the water. If the rescue or attempted rescue evidences such extraordinary effort as to merit recognition, the medal shall be silver.
“It isn’t fate, it wasn’t luck, it was a choice that sent these two men after my son. That choice that they made so instinctively is what makes them heroes,” said William’s mother, Sarah.