Your ship hits a reef and after a days-long attempt at salvaging it, you’re forced to abandon ship, which requires a 70-yard swim through rough, shark-infested waters that most people couldn’t do on their own.
Now picture having to help 46 other people make that swim over the course of a five-hour period.
Mineman Third Class (SW) Travis Kirckof was recently awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal after doing just that in January 2013 after his ship, the mine countermeasures ship Guardian, hit a reef off the Philippines.
On top of aiding sailors in the swim to the lifeboats, Kirckof also saved two lives.
“One guy had his seabag slung over his front and when he jumped in he couldn’t pull the release for the rubber duckie,” Kirckof told the Navy Times. “He panicked and sunk straight down like a rock.”
Kirckof dove and saved his shipmate, freeing him from his load and getting back to surface.
Another shipmate jumped in and began to drift out to sea. Kirckof swam desperately after the panicking sailor and pulled him back to safety.
How did Kirckof manage to keep his strength up for five straight hours in the water?
“People were throwing Cokes and cans of tuna down to me when I had a second to rest,” he told the Navy Times. “Pretty much anything they could find to get food in me.”
Thanks to the heroics of Kirckof, he and the rest of shipmates survived the ordeal with “only minor cuts from the reef, and sunburn” as the listed injuries.
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