Marine sergeant is awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving boy from drowning at NC beach
By TREVOR DUNNELL | The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C. | Published: March 18, 2021
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A Camp Lejuene Marine has been awarded the highest non-combat honor for his heroic efforts at a Surf City beach in 2019.
Sgt. Danny P. McDonald was enjoying a day at the beach in Surf City when he started to hear a frantic cry for help coming offshore. He saw a crowd begin to form and noticed the screaming was coming from a 10-year-old boy struggling to stay afloat.
Around 1 p.m. on May 4, 2019, Sgt. McDonald, who was a corporal at the time, jumped into the water toward the boy to save him after the boy became caught in a rip current 300 feet out.
"At first, I didn't really register what was going on at the time," said Sgt. McDonald. "I heard him screaming from distance and I thought it was kids yelling and playing in the water. I realized the screaming was becoming more and more frequent and a lot louder, and a crowd was gathering at the beach. I got up to see what was going on and I saw him struggling out in the water. I immediately sprinted across the sand and dove into the water."
When Sgt. McDonald reached the boy, he was quickly able to gain control of him and assessed his condition. The boy was having a seizure at the time and was unable to swim. Carrying him back to shore on his chest, McDonald was able to swim back to shore, pulling himself and the boy to safety, according to an article written by Cpl. Elijah Abernathy with the 2nd Marine Division.
A United States Navy Corpsman, who was also at the beach, helped Sgt. McDonald assess the boy. During which 9-1-1 was called with EMS arriving soon after. EMS also assessed the boy's condition and were able to determine the boy would be okay but would have drowned had McDonald not acted, according to eyewitnesses.
"If not me, then who," said McDonald. "That's what it boils down to. I would do it to anyone in any situation and I would hope someone would help me if I'm ever in trouble."
During a ceremony Wednesday, Sgt. McDonald, a scout sniper currently serving with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (2/6), 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV), and was awarded the medal during a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to individuals serving in any capacity in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism that do not involve actual conflict with an enemy force. In such cases that include lifesaving actions, such as Sgt. McDonald's, the medal signifies that the award recipient risked their own life during the course of the event.
Company Commander of Weapons Company, 2/6 Captain Walter Graves explained the award exemplifies what it means to be a Marine.
"The initiative, fearlessness in the face of danger and hardship, it's exactly what we want all Marines to do," said Captain Graves. "We have all of these characteristics that define Marines, our honor, our courage, and our commitment. Sgt. McDonald models each of those characteristics."
After receiving the award, Sgt. McDonald added he is honored and humbled by the show of support and is thankful to those who presented the award.
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