The 2018 Armed Forces Volleyball Championship at Hurlburt Field, Florida, figured to be something none of its participants would ever forget.
That is the case, but nobody could have imagined why.
Four players from Navy’s squad were relaxing on the beach when they proved that members of the military are always on duty.
Chief Petty Officer Aniahau Desha, Seaman Gaston Yescas, Petty Officer 1st Class Sheldon Lucius and Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Essick thought they’d be in for some well-deserved R&R.
Then things changed — quickly.
“I was on the beach with my wife, and everyone showed up there, Josh, Sheldon, and Gaston. We’d just sat down, and some ladies came up the beach were yelling for help, seeing that the girls were out in the waves, needing help,” Desha told U.S.Armed Forces Sports. “They were in trouble, so we just ran into the water and got them.”
The men swam about 75 yards in rough surf conditions to reach two teenage girls, one of whom was unresponsive.
They pulled her onto the beach and got to work.
“When we got on shore, as soon as I picked her up, I noticed that she wasn’t breathing. It was obvious that she wasn’t breathing. I checked for her pulse — there was no pulse. So we immediately started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth,” said Desha.
The sailors are trained to react calmly in emergency situations, and it paid off dramatically here. The teenager was resuscitated. She was taken to the hospital and later released.
“Since I’m a corpsman up to date with the CPR certifications and all, and I was also a lifeguard for eight years, this was honestly like a normal drill, I would say, because I’ve been in a lot of incidents likes this,” said Yescas.
This was a lot more than a “normal drill.”
“Those sailors put others before themselves, and did so at great risk to their own safety,” said First Coast Fire and Emergency Services Fire Chief Mark Brusoe.
“Two teenagers are alive today as a direct result of [these sailors’] quick thinking, bravery and composure under extreme pressure,” said All-Navy Men’s Volleyball Coach Gilburto Bermudez.
These heroes can say it was all in the line of duty, but their actions went above and beyond.
“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that this girl’s going to see another day because of what we did,” Desha said. “For the parents, especially, and as a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine hearing the news that something happened to my daughter. And if someone was there to help, I’d like them to do the same for me if it was my child. So, I’m pretty honored.”
The Air Force men and women won the volleyball tournament, but there’s no arguing that the two teenagers are the biggest winners of all, thanks to four sailors and their quick thinking.
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