Daughter of Coast Guard's Top Enlisted Leader Awarded Lifesaving Medal for Water Rescue

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden receives the Silver Lifesaving medal.
Master Chief Petty Officer Marques Johnson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden and Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Vanderhaden after the Silver Lifesaving medal ceremony honoring Victoria Vanderhaden in Mobile, Alabama, July 20, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer Crystalynn Kneen)

On July 24, 2018, then-Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Victoria Vanderhaden was taking an evening stroll on the boardwalk on Fire Island, New York, when she saw two swimmers in the water.

It was 8:45 in the evening, waves were four to six feet, and winds were gusting up to 30 miles an hour.

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The pair -- both men -- were shouting for help in Spanish.

Vanderhaden, assigned to Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck, didn't hesitate. She asked a bystander to call 911, as well as the local Coast Guard unit, and jumped in.

"Once I realized how much danger they were in, I knew I had to act fast," Vanderhaden said in a news release shortly after the event. "My training as a lifeguard and my knowledge as a Coast Guard member prepared me for instances just like this."

She was able to reach both men -- one had drifted 50 yards offshore -- and help them stay afloat while the three swam out of a rip current.

On Monday, Vanderhaden became only the second female Coast Guard member to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal, given to those who rescue, or endeavor to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck or other peril of water.

She is the daughter of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden.

"Today, I had the honor to witness my daughter, [Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class] Victoria Vanderhaden receive the #CoastGuard Silver Lifesaving Medal for rescuing two men off the beach of Fire Island in the summer of 2018. I couldn't be more proud to see Rear. Admiral [John] Nadeau ... pin the medal on her today in front of her mother and I, and a small group of her shipmates," the MCPOCG wrote on his Facebook page.

More than 2,000 individuals have earned the Silver Lifesaving Medal since it and the Gold Lifesaving Medal -- for daring rescues that take place despite risk to the rescuer's life -- were established in 1874.

In 2011, Chief Warrant Officer Beth Slade -- then a chief boatswain's mate -- received the medal for a 2001 rescue in which she and a member of a local rescue team entered dangerous conditions to save a man trapped in a capsized boat at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington state.

She and the other rescuer, Doug Knutzen, used a chainsaw to cut through the boat's fiberglass hull to save the fisherman.

During Monday's ceremony, Vanderhaden, now assigned to Coast Guard Sector Mobile, Alabama, expressed gratitude for the award.

"I am glad I was at the right place at the right time," she said following the rescue two years ago.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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