Camp Schwab, Okinawa Japan --
CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan – On Jan. 12, 2024, Sgt. Aidan Blansfield, a machine gunner with the 3d Marine Division, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for saving a woman’s life.
On the afternoon of July 23, 2023, Blansfield, a Rhode Island native, was spending his last day of pre-deployment leave at the beach in North Carolina with his wife and two friends. The surf conditions that day were rougher than usual, and swimmers were taking precautions to avoid the water.
“The surf state was a little higher than normal,” Blansfield recalls. “There was definitely a current. I think that was the main reason there weren’t very many people in the water to begin with.”
While relaxing on the shore, Blansfield noticed a woman floating on the water.
“I remember looking at the situation, and it didn’t particularly look like she was in distress,” Blansfield said. “After speaking with her boyfriend who was nearby, he stated she’d been out there for a while and didn’t seem like she was able to get back to the beach.”
Blansfield immediately took action and headed into the water to aid the woman, who had been swimming on her back to remain afloat.
Blansfield, an experienced swimmer who is certified in the Marine Corps Water Survival Advanced course, navigated the surf and slowly approached the woman. He announced his presence and asked if she needed assistance. She confirmed she was unable to make it back to shore on her own.
“I extended one arm out to her, which she took, and I began aggressively side stroking towards the beach, swimming across the current,” said Blansfield.
Blansfield kept up communication with the woman and reassured her that they would return safely.
“She was in a state of pretty severe distress and needed to know that I was going to get her out of the situation unscathed,” Blansfield stated.
Once they reached the shore, Blansfield confirmed that she was not seriously injured and encouraged her not to let the experience deter her from future water activities.
“I wanted to make sure that she didn’t let the experience ultimately defeat her,” said Blansfield. “I told her maybe take the rest of the day off, but don’t let this deter you from getting in the water in the future.”
Blansfield hopes all Marines learn from this experience, “Don’t be afraid to act,” he said. “If you know you have the skills and abilities to handle a situation, then, by all means, take action.”
Blansfield is with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines and is currently forward deployed in the Indo-Pacific under 4th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division as part of the Unit Deployment Program.