As the Coast Guard’s purveyors of pay and benefits, yeomen typically serve behind desks as administrative experts in support of the Coast Guard’s well known missions of search and rescue and humanitarian aid. However, that didn’t stop Petty Officer 2nd Class Seville Rasmussen from lending a helping hand when she spotted a man frantically waving for help after his wife was seriously injured in a snow machine accident.
It was a typical, snowy, April day near Girdwood, Alaska, and Rasmussen was enjoying the outdoors with her daughter and friends when she spotted a man calling for help from a creek bed. The man and his wife were riding their snow machine when it flipped over and pinned the man’s wife face down in six inches of freezing water.
“The woman was underneath the snow machine when we arrived,” Rasmussen recalled. “I told my daughter, ‘Mommy needs to help these people,’ and asked her to wait near a tree above the creek.”
With no time to lose, Rasmussen quickly went for additional help while a friend aided the man in pulling the woman from the creek. Upon her return, Rasmussen and another man administered emergency first aid and applied a makeshift splint and heat pads to the woman using techniques Rasmussen had learned as a stretcher-bearer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Elm, a buoy tender homeported in Atlantic Beach, N.C.
“We were taught basic first responder medical aid aboard the cutter,” said Rasmussen. “It all came back to me in the heat of the moment. We removed all the cold, wet and restrictive clothes that were causing the woman pain, kept her warm and kept her talking.
Using a piece of plywood from the back of a nearby truck, Rasmussen and the other good Samaritans then slogged through the wet snow and slush as they carried the woman from the creek and up to the couple’s truck. Rasmussen then calmed the woman’s husband and directed him to head for emergency medical help in Girdwood where the woman was treated for injuries to her knee, arm and back.
“There was no cellphone service where we were, and there was no time to track down a sat-phone to call for help,” Rasmussen said. “I made sure the man was okay to drive, got back to my daughter and we went back to the rest of our day as if nothing had happened.”
Rasmussen’s part in the woman’s rescue may have gone unnoticed if coworkers hadn’t asked about her weekend.
“Petty Officer Rasmussen tried to downplay her role in the rescue when I asked her about it at lunch the following Monday but, the more I looked into it, the more I knew this was something for which she should be recognized,” said Chief Petty Officer Dennis Schnarr, logistics admin chief, Sector Anchorage. “Her actions might have a played a big part in keeping this woman alive.”
For her tremendous aid in the rescue of the woman, Rasmussen was awarded a Commandant’s Letter of Commendation during an all hands event in Anchorage, Aug. 1. A Commandant’s Letter of Commendation is an award granted to Coast Guard members who perform any unusual or outstanding act or service worthy of recognition.
“We’re extremely proud of Petty Officer Rasmussen’s actions,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Burkhart, command senior chief, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “She’s an outstanding individual and, after getting to know her, we’re not surprised that she acted immediately in such a selfless manner. This is exactly what we hope all our members are prepared to do. She is an example for all of us.”
Daring rescues might be ops normal for Coast Guard members stationed on operational units that are frequently deployed, but they’re not as common for those assigned to the shore commands that handle and coordinate the logistics associated with keeping the Coast Guard machine running. Though her day-to-day duties usually involve more paperwork than peril, Petty Officer Rasmussen’s actions prove that every Coast Guardsman is a life saver.