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Harry Vasquez


Coast Guard Medal

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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 Fireman Harry Vasquez, United States Coast Guard, for heroism while serving aboard U.S.C.G.C. CUSHING (WPB 1321) during the early morning of 15 July 2001. While operating 20 nautical miles east of the British Virgin Islands, the CUSHING detected and pursued the M/V DOUBLE IMPACT, which was suspected of being engaged in migrant smuggling. At the conclusion of the pursuit, the DOUBLE IMPACT capsized, ejecting more than 25 migrants into the sea. Displaying exceptional bravery and courage, Fireman Vasquez volunteered to enter the water in an attempt to rescue two adults who could not swim and were on the verge of drowning. Despite having no training as a rescue swimmer, he risked his life by entering the debris-filled seas in complete darkness as considerable swells carried the adults further out of reach of a nearby life raft. Operating without a tether, Fireman VASQUEZ made his way to the life raft, brought it within reach of the drowning migrants and helped them take hold of the raft. During the rescue, he had to swim outside the visible range of the cutter as CUSHING's port searchlight experienced a casualty and was inoperable. Because CUSHING had difficulty maneuvering in the debris-filled seas, Fireman Vasquez remained in the treacherous seas with the panicking migrants for over ten minutes. He vectored CUSHING to his location by sounding-off at regular intervals. Without his heroic efforts, the two migrants almost certainly would have perished. Fireman Vasquez 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: 15-Jul-01

Service: Coast Guard

Rank: Fireman