UPDATE: As a Dunwoody, Ga., native Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas McArthur was a guest on MyFOX Atlanta Nov. 3. Click to watch his interview.
It was a beautiful summer day along Frankfort Beach, Mich., with sun-drenched sands and blue skies above. Seaman Thomas McArthur had a day off and planned a training run at the beach. While he expected a good workout and even a little sunburn, he didn’t expect to save 12 lives.
After McArthur concluded his run, he entered the water for a swim and noticed a strong undertow. He started swimming back to shore when two boys jumped from a nearby pier. They began to struggle in the water and McArthur swam toward them, towing the first boy to the pier. He then got out of the water, ran down the pier and threw a line to the second boy.
The Great Lakes’ deadly rip currents can come without warning, and soon multiple people were in peril. With the assistance of a bystander, McArthur hauled another teen onto the pier. Scanning the water, he saw two more adults struggling. Utilizing the throw line he pulled both men to safety.
The action was far from over. While stowing the line, he witnessed two brothers being pulled under. He reached the first who was experiencing breathing problems and brought him to shore. The boys’ parents swam out to assist their other son, but the current was too strong. Unable to reach him, a wave tossed the parents into the pier. Bystanders used the throw line, but it snagged on the pier. McArthur rescued the son, swam to the pier, freed the line and pulled them all safely ashore.
Back on the pier, McArthur looked out over the water and saw rip currents continue to form as waves broke near the shore. He saw a woman being pulled under, but in her weakened condition she could not hold onto the line he threw. Wave after wave crashed over and he knew he would have to go back in.
Entering the water for the third time, he swam to the woman and carried her to the pier’s ladder. Severely weakened by the struggle to stay afloat, she was unable to climb the ladder. She was knocked back into the water by a crashing wave, and McArthur took her into tow and swam her to the beach.
He entered the water one last time and successfully delivered four more people safely ashore. In case you’ve lost count, over the course of an hour he rescued 12 people from certain peril on our nation’s Great Lakes.
Earlier this month, the Coast Guard awarded him a Silver Lifesaving Medal for his heroic off-duty actions that day. In May 2011 he graduated from Aviation Survival Technician “A” School to begin his “official” career as a rescue swimmer and is currently stationed at Air Station Traverse City, Mich. Here, his courage and dedication is not only to saving lives but also to helping change them.
A lifetime member of the scouting community, he advised more than 69,000 scouts and scout leaders at this year’s National Scout Jamboree. As the youngest Eagle Scout and youngest member of the jamboree’s task force, he filled a mentorship role offering insight and advice on success in scouting and public service.
McArthur’s connection to scouting began at an early age as a Cub Scout and he has continued through the Boy Scout ranks, earning the rank of Eagle Scout in 2006. To him, scouting is about serving others – something he uses every day as a Coast Guardsman.
“In scouts you do a lot of volunteering; I believe through my life that’s what I wanted to devote my life to is trying to serve the community in one way or other,” said McArthur. “I love my job now. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I like that it is in a sense serving the community and helping people when they need it.”