Marine corporal gets commendation medal for saving drowning teen while on leave
Stars and Stripes January 30, 2024
A Marine corporal put his water training to use to save a drowning teen in upstate New York last summer.
His unit commander recently pinned the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal on Cpl. Jacob Cogswell, 23, of Constantia, N.Y., for his actions, according to a Jan. 25 news release from the 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa.
On July 5, Cogswell — a machine gunner with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines who is deployed with the 4th Marines on Okinawa — was on a boat in the Oneida River with his girlfriend and her parents when they noticed a teen struggling to keep his head above water, the Marine told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.
The swimmer was one of four teens who’d jumped from a bridge, according to the news release. Although the struggling swimmer called for help, no other bystander moved to assist him.
Cogswell, who had lived in the area, said he knew a strong current flowed where the teen was swimming.
“I instructed them to pull the boat closer and we tried verbally asking him if everything was OK or if he needed help,” he said. “We got no confirmation; he was just struggling for his life.”
Cogswell “immediately jumped out, grabbed his arm, put him on my shoulders, swam back to the boat,” he said. After checking the teen’s condition, the Marine took him to the shore.
“He was very grateful for me saving him and I think he was too shocked to have many words about what happened,” Cogswell said.
The 2nd Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Andrew Nicholson, presented the medal to Cogswell during a Jan. 12 ceremony at Camp Schwab, Okinawa.
The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal honors those who demonstrate “heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” according to the Navy Awards Manual.
Cogswell attributed the rescue success to his Marine Corps training.
“I had complete confidence in myself that I would be able to get back safely,” he said. “Through all the swim qualifications, swim tests and all the [physical training] in the pool has made me feel very confident in being able to rescue the swimmer.”
He served up some advice for would-be rescuers facing similar situations.
“If you feel confident in a situation and you know someone who’s struggling, don’t wait for someone else to do something,” he said. “Because in that split second, something worse might happen, and it may be too late.”