By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci, Naval Special Warfare Command Public AffairsCORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- A student assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the City of Coronado Jan. 15 at Coronado City Hall.
The award was presented to Seaman William "Pepper" Lang, a second phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student, and two other lifeguards, Jacob Bender and Blair Geiss, for meritorious service in the line of duty as a lifeguard, Lang's job prior to joining the Navy.
The mayor of Coronado, Casey Tanaka, congratulated the three lifeguards as he bestowed the commendations during a city council meeting.
"We have a beautiful beach and we're very proud of it," said Tanaka. "In the back of our minds, we don't want to think about rip currents, high tides or other possible threats. On behalf of the entire city, we want to thank the three of you for the actions you've taken in saving a precious life. You and your brethren do this every day and you always put your lives on the line for us."
Bender was on duty in Tower 5, April 1, 2012, when he noticed a number of people pointing and yelling near the water at North Beach. After scanning the water, Bender saw a man in distress in the surf, face down. As he made his way toward the victim, the lifeguard called for backup. Upon reaching the victim, Bender suspected life-threatening injuries had been sustained. He performed an inline stabilization, cradling the patient's head and neck in his arms.
Then the lifeguard noticed a large hematoma on the victim's lower back, causing a localized collection of blood about the size of two softballs side-by-side. Although the victim was conscious, he couldn't feel or move his legs and was unable to reach the shore.
Once lifeguards Lang and Geiss arrived, the three worked as a team against the difficult environment of the surf line to reach shore and "log rolled" the patient onto a special rescue board to immobilize his spine. They continued treatment until Coronado firefighters arrived and transported the patient to Scripps Mercy Base Hospital for immediate surgery.
"I'm proud of the actions these men took," said Mike Blood, Coronado fire chief. "I'm proud of the professionalism they demonstrated that made a positive impact in someone's life."
Because of the quick response and attentive care given by Lang and the other two lifeguards, the victim survived a significant injury to the spine and greatly limited damage from the trauma.
"It's humbling and I'm accepting this award on behalf of all the lifeguards," said Lang. "There were those people that were sitting in the dispatch tower and driving the ambulance and I was a very small player in this. I was simply doing what I was trained to do. I feel honored to be awarded this today. I feel like I accept this for those other lifeguards that were on duty that day and the 30 lifeguards who work those beaches year round on Christmas Day and Fourth of July when everyone else is having fun. I'm honored to say I was a part of this rescue."