It’s anticipated that a Coast Guardsman may save a life, but it’s rarely expected that it will be that of another Coast Guardsman.
But that is what Coast Guard Seaman Stacy Sasser—just four months out of basic training—found herself doing on the morning of Dec. 2, 2013, after she saw a bag of groceries floating under the pier behind Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Va. Moments before, Sasser, a crewmember aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Cochito, had noticed Petty Officer 2nd Class David Blonn carrying grocery bags down the pier as she prepared the Cochito to get underway.
Blonn, a food service specialist on Coast Guard Cutter Albacore, which moors across from the Cochito, was stepping from the pier onto the Albacore when he slipped and hit his head. Sasser, who had crossed the pier intending to help rescue the groceries, then heard the splash when Blonn’s unconscious body hit the water.
“I looked over the edge and saw him floating face down,” she remembers. “I jumped on the fender [separating the Albacore from the pier] and tried to pull him out, but when I realized that wasn’t going to work, I got in the water and rolled him face up.”
Sasser tread water and supported Blonn with her own body in the 50-degree Chesapeake Bay. Other shipmates rushed to the scene and lowered a Jacob’s ladder to help the two as swells caused the Albacore to bounce uncomfortably close to the pier.
“Everything we do is a dangerous business,” observed Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven H. Ratti, who awarded Sasser a Coast Guard Commendation Medal during a ceremony at Station Little Creek on Dec. 20, 2013, for her selflessness and quick-thinking. “Even loading groceries is a dangerous business.”
And while Blonn, a father of four, says he “can’t say enough thank yous” to Sasser for her bravery, the Tybee Island, Ga.-native herself remains modest. “We’re all just shipmates looking out for each other. There were a bunch of people just seconds behind me who would have done the same exact thing. I just got there first.”