Above and Beyond: College student receives Silver Lifesaving Medal

WILMOT, S.D. - Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District, presents Josie Green, a Wilmot resident, with the Coast Guard Silver Lifesaving Medal during a ceremony at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Feb. 11, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

Each year it seems that the Red River, which flows north along the North Dakota/Minnesota border, rises and creates hazardous flooding conditions for the people who live near its banks.

In the fall of 2009, Coast Guardsmen from the 8th and 9th Districts worked alongside first responders from local, state and federal agencies to try and help those affected by the raging waters.

On Nov. 20, 2009, Lucas Littleghost fell off a railroad bridge near Moorehead, Minn., into the 38-degree, debris-filled river. In this case though, the person who attempted to rescue Littleghost had no search and rescue training, and just basic swimming skills.

WILMOT, S.D. - Josie Green, a Wilmot resident, wears the Coast Guard Silver Lifesaving Medal after it was awarded to her during a ceremony at St. Mary'€™s Catholic Church, Feb. 11, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

Josie Green, then an 18-year-old freshman at Minnesota State University Moorehead, was jogging along the riverbank and heard two men yelling for help.

“I heard them and went toward them and they asked if they could use my phone,” said Green. “That’s when I noticed that someone was in the river. Nothing was happening, so I decided to jump in because they said they couldn’t swim.”

By this point, Littleghost was unconscious and facedown in the swirling water. Despite the freezing conditions, powerful current, and having no protective equipment, Green was able to get him back to shore to waiting emergency medical technicians and taken to a Fargo, N.D., hospital. Unfortunately, Littleghost died a few days later.

“Something needed to happen or he was going to drown,” said Green. “I just tried my best to get out there.”

In honor of Green’s selfless and courageous actions trying to save the life of a complete stranger, Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District, presented her with the Coast Guard Silver Lifesaving Medal during a ceremony on Feb. 10, in her hometown of Wilmot, S.D.

“She jumped into the water and gave him a chance to live,” said Parks. “This medal has been around for more than 138 years, and it’s been given out only 1,900 times in that 138 years.”

The Silver Lifesaving Medal, as well as the higher Gold Lifesaving Medal, may be awarded to any person who rescues, or attempts to rescue, another person from drowning, shipwreck, or other peril of the water.

Green’s actions embody the spirit of those that are called to save lives on the water.

“There can be no greater act or sacrifice, than to put oneself at risk to save someone else,” said Parks during the ceremony. “This wasn’t a family member; wasn’t a friend; this was somebody that Josie didn’t even know. We thank you for what you did, as an example to all of us.”

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