SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard presented the Silver Life Saving Medal Thursday to a Coast Guardsman who risked his life to rescue a man from drowning in Bocas del Toro, Republic of Panama Nov. 9, 2012.
Captain Robert W. Warren, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan, presented Ensign Roland Blake with the second highest Coast Guard life saving medal during an All Hands gathering at the Coast Guard base in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
While on deployment with a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron detachment assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, then Petty Officer Blake, who was enjoying liberty at Red Frog Beach, heard cries for help in the water nearby. He quickly discovered that a man was caught in a strong surf zone and a rip current. Without hesitation, Blake made his way through the surf, putting his own life at risk, reached the struggling man and helped him tread water before they attempted to make their way towards shore. However, because of the strong rip current, making headway to reach shore was extremely difficult and they were slowly heading towards a rocky cliff. Blake fought on and was able to keep the man afloat while more helped arrived. With the extra help, he was able to finally get the man to shore after a half hour of intense swimming and battling the rough surf and current.
“I am very happy that I was able to help the gentleman that day in Panama,” said Ensign Blake “We never know how we will respond to life threatening situations until we are actually face to face with them and I pray that if put in a similar situation I will be able to make the same decision again.”
Ensign Ben Hannon, who was in attendance during the presentation, said “It’s great to hear about the amazing individuals that make up this service, and I’m honored to work with people like Roland.”
Ensign Blake recently went through the Coast Guard’s Direct Commissioning Program, is serving as First Lieutenant of the pre-commissioning crew for the Fast Response Cutter Winslow Griesser that is to be commissioned and homeported in Sector San Juan in 2016. Prior to earning his commission, Blake was an Aviation Electronics Technician. Blake is a 1998 graduate of The Citadel, and September 1st will mark his 17th year in the Coast Guard.
The Silver Lifesaving Medal was created by congress in 1874 and is awarded to people who endanger their own lives while saving or attempting to save another from drowning, a shipwreck or other perils of the water. The Coast Guard is the ultimate award authority for the Silver Lifesaving Medal and can award the decorations to members of all military branches as well as civilians.