Camp Schwab, Okinawa Japan --
CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, JAPAN – On January 12, 2023, Corporal Jacob Cogswell, a machine gunner with the 3d Marine Division, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his heroic actions while saving the life of a local teen in New York.
Cogswell returned to his home state of New York last July to enjoy pre-deployment leave with family and friends. During a boat ride along the Oneida River, Cogswell observed four teens jump from the bridge into the river. Three swam back to shore, but one was swept away by a strong current. The teen struggled to keep his head above water and called for help.
A local to the area, Cogswell knew the danger this location presented to those without strong swimming skills. “You could hear it in his voice,” said Cogswell, “He was panicking and asking for help, but no one was helping him.”
The teen’s distress was ignored by other bystanders. However, Cogswell immediately took initiative and directed the boat closer to the struggling teen, stopping nearby. The family asked if the teen was okay, if he needed help, or if he was hurt. When they received no answer, Cogswell took action.
“As others were talking to him, I kind of just jumped in and went after him,” said Cogswell.
Cogswell’s experience and qualification through the Marine Corps water survival training program taught him how to handle the situation. He wrapped the teen’s arms around his shoulders, supporting him on his back. Cogswell then swam back to the boat, fighting against the current. Cogswell says the relief he saw on the teen’s face kept him going.
Cogswell assisted the teen into the boat as soon as it was within reach, and the group immediately checked him for injuries. Luckily, the teen had no physical injuries and was safely returned to the shore and reunited with his friends.
After ensuring the teen was safe, Cogswell enjoyed the remainder of the evening with his girlfriend. Her family, in awe of his actions, continuously expressed their gratitude that he was there to help.
“They just kept thanking me for what I did,” said Cogswell, “but the only thing that was on my mind was that now the child was okay.”
Unbeknownst to Cogswell, his girlfriend’s dad had contacted his command and informed them of the incident. “I didn’t do it for recognition,” Cogswell stated, “no award could amount to the relief I felt once I knew the teen was safe.”
The lesson Cogswell hopes Marines learn from this is not to be afraid to act because you never know when it might result in saving someone’s life.
“Being a Marine is doing things not for yourself, but for others,” said Cogswell. “Don’t be afraid to act, don’t hesitate, and go with your instincts.”
Cogswell is with 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.