Bookmark and Share

Gavino Ortiz


Coast Guard Medal

See more recipients of this award

Awarded for actions during the Peace Time Awards

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Coast Guard Medal to Seaman Apprentice Gavino Ortiz, United States Coast Guard, for extraordinary heroism on the afternoon 4 August 2001 while rescuing seven swimmers caught in a riptide off the beach of South Padre Island National Seashore, Texas. He arrived on scene at Beach Access Number 5, to a chaotic scene of local fire-rescue personnel shouting and pointing to five people in the water, 75-100 yards offshore in danger of drowning. With two Coast Guard small boats unable to reach the group due to sandbars and a six foot breaking surf, he instinctively plunged into the water and swam toward the victims, using their cries for help as his reference to their location. He recovered a 59 year-old man, placed him on a nearby tourist's inflatable mattress, and then recovered two other individuals nearby who were drowning. One of the men slipped underwater, overcome by fatigue, forcing Seaman Apprentice Ortiz to dive beneath the surface to recover him. He then turned his attention to two other individuals who were drowning 20 yards further out to sea. Quickly swimming to their location, Seaman Ortiz dove beneath the surface to recover one of the men and revived the man with a stomach thrust while swimming him to the inflatable mattress. Swimming to shore with the inflatable mattress and all five victims in tow, Seaman Apprentice Ortiz then noticed a Cameron County Texas Parks Police officer exhausted and struggling in the surf line. Pushing the raft through the surf line, he placed the officer amid the group and continued swimming to shore. He then received a line from shore, attached it to the raft, and all six people were safely hauled onshore. Although thoroughly fatigued, Seaman Apprentice Ortiz again returned through the surf line in a 40-yard swim, recovered a fireman caught in a riptide and delivered him to safety. Seaman Apprentice Ortiz demonstrated remarkable initiative, exceptional fortitude, and daring in spite of imminent personal danger in this rescue. His courage and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.

General Orders: U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Action Date: 4-Aug-01

Service: Coast Guard

Rank: Seaman Apprentice