MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Sitting, scanning the waters on her lifeguard chair at the Area 2 Pool aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune July 6, Josie Martin was picking out patrons and running scenarios through her head of what might or could happen – something she was taught to do as a lifeguard.
Martin happened to be watching a young man in the pool, thinking about what he might do, what might happen. Then, she went on break, as lifeguards are required to do. But, 25 minutes later, she saw people running and she soon followed. That same young man she was watching was unconscious.
The 14-year-old military child was reported to have held his breath under water as he swam a lap. After the lap, he got out of the pool, stood up and fell right back in - apparently from blacking out – in the deep end.
“Two Marines immediately went down and got the kid,” said Martin. “I immediately began to apply what I learned as a lifeguard to save this kid’s life.”
With no pulse and no breathing, Martin began CPR. After one round, he began to show signs of life. After she performed rescue breathing, the child began to fight with Martin, and other people who were trying to help, which is normal for drowning victims.
Martin said she had no time to hesitate, because hesitation could be that person’ life, according to Martin.
“I went into automatic,” said Martin. “You have no time to get emotional. I had to focus or else nothing good would have happened.”
Martin was honored for her life-saving actions by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Gorry, the Marine Corps Installations East commanding general and Col. Daniel J. Lecce, the Marine Corps Base commanding officer, in front of her family, friends, peers and service members at Lejeune Hall, Sept. 9. She was awarded with a commendation for meritorious civilian service.
Gorry took the ceremony personally as his oldest son was a lifeguard at one point.
“I take this to heart because my oldest son was also a lifeguard,” said Gorry. “He too had to go in the water and save a woman’s life.”
Looking toward Martin, Gorry added, “I want to personally thank you for your lifesaving actions that day.”
Lecce took the stage afterward and read a letter from the boy’s mother, who could not make the ceremony. She hailed Martin as her son’s guardian angel. Lecce noted, though Martin didn’t want the recognition, he felt it was important highlight those who go above and beyond.
While speaking to Martin after the ceremony, Lecce said, “Being a lifeguard is like being in combat. In combat, there’s a lot of boredom followed with quick bursts of action. Being a lifeguard, there’s a lot of sitting down, then all of a sudden there’s trouble in the water. You have to be ready, and you were.”
While Martin felt she was doing what she was taught to do, she doesn’t feel like anyone’s hero. She said her heroes are those who carry heavy loads while trying to stay alive in combat; those who put their gun belt on around the waist and patrol the streets; and those who put on their fire retardant outfits to put out blazes.
According to the letter from the boy’s mother, “You were there for my son that day. You were there for a reason. You are my son’s guardian angel.”
Martin, you are a hero.