Coastie earns lifesaving medal

| August 4, 2020

Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden and her parents

We have a valor story early this week. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden was presented the rare Silver Lifesaving Medal this week for her actions on a beach in Long Island, NY back in 2018. You might notice that she was presented the award by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who is also her father. From the story, there is no hint of nepotism here. This young lady’s earned this award and then some.

Vanderhaden was new to Long Island in 2018 and was taking in all the beaches. On the fateful day she went to Fire Island, where the surf was six feet.

She saw two men way out in what looked “like a washing machine out there.” Ashore, she heard some yell a pained Spanish word, “ayúdenme”. Asking other onlookers what it meant, she was told it was “help me.”

The boatswain’s mate sprung into action. She discarded her sweater and shoes while ordering bystanders to call 911 and the local USCG station and then went into the ocean amin waves taller than she is.

Arriving at the first swimmer quickly, she assessed that the man further out was in more imminent danger, so told him she’d be back. Vanderhaden got to the man further out. As panicked swimmers do, the man repeatedly pulled her under, but she calmed him and got started back towards shore. Picking up the first man along the way, he too swamped her, taking several minutes to calm him down.

Vanderhaden then pushed one distressed swimmer while pulling the other, all the way back to shore. By then police had arrived. She gave a statement to them. They thought she was assigned to the USCGS Fire Island, but was assigned to Eatons Neck nearby. The Coast Guard, for a week, didn’t know who their heroic service member was.

Silver Lifesaving Medal

Once they pieced it together, the humble Petty Officer was recommended for the rare award. For her quick thinking, action, and bravery she was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by the USCG.

The Lifesaving Medal (in gold for risk of life or limb and silver for all other awards) is a rarely awarded medal but one of the country’s oldest. Created in 1874, and continuously awarded since, it even predates the formation of the modern Coast Guard.

The Lifesaving Medal is not a military award, but can be worn on military uniforms, and is awarded for “Rescuing, or endeavoring to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water.”

BZ Petty Officer Vanderhaden!

Source; Military Families

Category: Coast Guard, Valor

Comments (6)

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  1. CDR_D says:

    Indeed, BZ!

  2. OldManchu says:

    Great job!

  3. FuzeVT says:

    Well done!

    And Happy Coastie Birthday!!

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    Victoria’s Secret is that she is a brave little badass. BZ PO2 Victoria Vanderhaden, job well done. Another BZ to her parents for adding more quality to the gene pool. Young’uns like this give us a glimmer of hope for our future.

    Not sure about y’all, or the puddle pirates, but to me, a fairly decent swimmer, jumping into an ocean with six foot seas to rescue 2 in distress swimmers, seems to be a tad more dangerous than doing the lifeguard at the pool gig. You would think that would be at risk of her life or limb and be deserving of the Gold Award. She’s a Gold Medal Winner in my book.

    Thanks Mason!

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Perhaps she said “easy swim” or “no problem managing and calming two desperate men”

      Almost more bad-ass that way, eh?

  5. Graybeard says:

    Excellent work, Ma’am.