The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, honored three DSS personnel for rescuing a local man from drowning in six-foot waves off Monrovia’s Atlantic coast, an area well known for a lack of natural harbors and hazardous currents.

The heroic rescue by Special Agent Sean Sullivan and Marine Security Guards Cpl. Aaron Pham and Sgt. Parker Crosson began just after noon on June 15, 2019, while Cpl. Pham was surfing in the waves, and Sgt. Crosson and SA Sullivan were relaxing on the beach.

Marine Cpl. Aaron Pham was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for heroism at U.S. embassy Monrovia on November 12, 2019. (U.S. Department of State photo)

Strong currents dragged the Liberian man about 200 yards from the beach and was struggling to stay afloat on his boogie board. Within minutes, a woman reported to Sgt. Crosson that the man was in distress.

Sgt. Crosson jumped into the water; SA Sullivan followed him. Sgt. Crosson was the first to reach the Liberian man, who was underwater and unable to return to the surface—his boogie board lost in the waves.

An eyewitness who had been surfing with Cpl. Pham described the scene this way:

“… I noticed Sgt. Crosson get to the man in distress, and it looked like he was struggling to keep both himself and the man in distress above water. SA Sullivan arrived shortly thereafter; and between the two of them, it appeared as if they were able to calm the man down a bit. … Cpl. Pham arrived with his surfboard, and he immediately gave the man in distress his board to hold on to. The group of four men then began struggling against the current to get back to shore. … I arrived shortly thereafter, and it was clear the Liberian man was greatly distressed and exhausted. With surfboards in tow, we all made it back to the beach, where SA Sullivan, Cpl. Pham and Sgt. Crosson assessed the Liberian man … . It was clear to me [that] without the quick action of Sgt. Crosson, SA Sullivan, and Cpl. Pham, the Liberian man would have drowned within minutes.”

Once ashore, the shaken and exhausted Liberian man was able to walk back to a beach table and drink water.

For their heroism at great risk to themselves in pulling the man from the surf and saving his life, Cpl. Pham and Sgt. Crosson were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, respectively. Cpl. Pham was honored at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy Monrovia on November 12. Sgt. Crosson was not present at the embassy ceremony because he had rotated out of his assignment in Monrovia. SA Sullivan will be honored with the State Department’s Award for Heroism for his efforts in the rescue.

U.S. Department of State

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