Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney.
Members of the United States armed services volunteer and raise their right hand to defend their country. It’s a practice demonstrated through the sacrifices members make to protect those in need. It takes a deep sense of commitment, often requiring service members to put themselves in harm’s way.
One of the Coast Guard’s key missions is search and rescue. Coast Guardsmen on small boats, cutters and aircraft patrol and respond to people in imminent danger— a mission that often puts Coast Guardsmen in all hazards to save the lives of others.
Danger happens anywhere and at anytime. For a dedicated Coast Guardsman who’s internalized Semper Paratus, Always Ready, responding doesn’t just happen on the job, but during off-duty hours as well.
While out on liberty with family in July 2012, Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel Peikert, stationed at Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, in Opa Locka, Fla., was moved into action when he saw a father and son swept up by strong currents by a 20-foot dam in the San Marcos River in San Marcos, Texas.
While trying to save his son from the rapids, the father hit his head on a hard surface and was losing the strength to reach land.
Peikert instinctively dove into the frothing water fighting the currents. Helped by his brother, Air Force Senior Airman Jonathan Peikert, they plucked the injured father and son out of the water, administered first aid and delivered them to a nearby hospital.
Although risky, his selfless act of bravery saved the lives of both father and son.
“All of our training kicked in and we reacted,” said Peikert. “I’m just glad we were there to be able to help out.”
The instinctive nature to help those in need is internalized by those who serve in the Coast Guard. Lifesaving and law enforcement are but two of the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions that require military members to put their lives in harm’s way.
Training helps each member prepare for dangerous missions, but training doesn’t teach courage and grit. Sometimes that particular special ingredient already comes prepackaged.
“When I was young, I aspired to be remembered by people as someone who loved to help people and do anything I can to help anyone in need or distress,” Peikert said.
True to his words and aspiration, Peikert’s actions that day will truly be remembered and recognized.
On Oct. 25, 2013, Peikert was awarded the Coast Guardsmen of the Year Award by the USO for his selfless act of heroism, bravery and dedication to help those in need.
“People who make blind sacrifices are often referred to as heroic,” said Cmdr. Robert Landolfi, Tactical Law Enforcement Team South’s commanding officer. “To be a hero, one needs to show exemplary courage in the face of danger. It is danger that often drives people to run away in an attempt of self-preservation. However, with Coast Guardsmen like Peikert, people who desperately reach out for help in life threatening situations will have someone to reach for.”