Wheeler Honors Soldier’s Safety Training For Water Rescue

Sgt. Jessica DuVernay 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

A soldier assigned to 209th Aviation Support Battalion was honored with an Army Commendation Medal Aug. 14 at Wheeler Army Airfield for his actions in helping to save a young girl’s life.

Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Gonzalez was visiting Pokai Bay with his family June 15, when he heard a man screaming for help in the water. After ensuring his children were out of the water and safely with his wife, Gonzalez approached the man, who was in the ocean holding a young girl and struggling to keep her above water.

“My first thought was to make sure that my kids were secure and out of the water,” explained Gonzalez. “My second thought was I need to get to the gentleman carrying the girl because he was struggling.”

Gonzalez began to perform life-saving procedures while moving toward shore with the girl. Once he got to the beach, he continued to perform the procedures until the girl expelled the water in her lungs and started to breathe weakly on her own. Gonzalez continued to monitor her and perform CPR until lifeguards arrived to take over and transport the girl to the ambulance.

“It was just training,” Gonzalez said. “There was nothing else that was coming to my mind, and I just kept going until the lifeguards were there.”

Following his experience with saving the girl, Gonzalez focuses even more on talking to his soldiers about the dangers around them and how fast an accident can happen. “We are American soldiers and we put on the uniform every day, knowing that there’s danger for everything that we do,” he said. “But then we go home and we are spending time with our families.

“Then something like this happens and it makes you more aware of the dangers every day, not just the dangers that you’re deployed or in combat for — or even doing some training. But everyday life is always more dangerous.”

The 209th ASB chose to award Gonzalez because he put the safety of others above his own. “Sgt. Maj.

Gonzalez is getting this award because he really went above and beyond performing his duty as a soldier on and off duty,” said Maj. William Hanna, 209th ASB executive officer. “He was selfless and went out of his way to save a little girl’s life.”

Gonzalez reflected on the event, stating he is thankful he was there. “I don’t know if I’m proud or honored. I just know that I’m glad God put me in the right place so I could have an effect on the little one’s life so she could continue to be with her family.”