‘Finally getting that recognition’: Marine who died trying to save struggling swimmer honored over two years after death
A Baltimore area Marine who drowned after jumping into a river to help a fellow Marine on July 4 two years ago was awarded the service’s highest medal for noncombat bravery in a ceremony last weekend.
Lance Cpl. Corey Staten, who was just 23 when he drowned in a Missouri river in 2018, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at the 4th Marine Combat Engineer Battalion in Parkville, Md., the service said this week.
The day before the Oct. 24 ceremony marked three years since he’d shipped off to boot camp, his mother told the local Fox television station.
“He always talked about wanting to have a career,” Nancy Staten told Baltimore’s WBFF. “He chose the Marines because he said they were the toughest.”
She accepted the award on his behalf, dog tags hanging from her neck, Marine Corps photos show. She and other family members wore red face coverings emblazoned with her son’s name in gold — the Marine Corps colors.
“I’m so proud of him because he just acted unconsciously,” his father, Walter Dukes, told WBFF. “He just went in and his main concern was to save that person’s life.”
Staten and four other off-duty Marines had been swimming at Sapper’s Cove on the Big Piney River on Fort Leonard Wood, an Army base where he was training as a motor transportation operator, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in July 2018.
One of the other Marines was struggling in the river’s “rapid moving waters,” states a citation that accompanied his award, which the Marine Corps provided to Stars and Stripes. She was “quickly overwhelmed and was unable to gain the control required to counter the current in order to safely reach shore,” it says.
“Without hesitation or regard for his own personal safety” Staten went into the water to try to save his fellow Marine, reads the citation signed by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger. But Staten “was overcome by the fast current, which pulled him under the water and from which he never resurfaced.”
A Missouri Highway Patrol dive team found his body the following morning in 8 feet of water, about 120 yards downstream, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time.
Staten’s “swift and decisive bias for action led him to selflessly give his life to save another,” the citation states.
The other Marine did not drown, Capt. Sam Stephenson, spokesman for the service’s Training and Education Command confirmed this week in an email.
The ceremony was “bittersweet,” Dukes said, but his son’s achievement was “greater than anything I can ever experience.”
“It’s hard to be a hero,” his father said. “It takes a lot.”
For Nancy Staten, the medal was a tangible reminder of her son’s sacrifice, the Fox station reported.
“It’s like he’s finally getting that recognition,” she said. “He wasn’t looking for recognition, but he’s getting recognition.”