The heroic efforts of four Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, recognized at a special awards ceremony Tuesday, exemplify the qualities that are endemic in our military services and particularly the Marine Corps. But this story is also a reminder of the great social and cultural benefits that Carteret County and surrounding counties enjoy because of the location of our military neighbors.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration for heroism, was presented to Staff Sgt. Leary Reichartwarfel, Cpl. Anders Larsen, Cpl. Austin McMullen and Cpl. Timothy Watson for their selfless act in saving the lives of three swimmers caught in a rip current off Atlantic Beach, June 2018. Unfortunately, a fourth member of the family, the father Austin Joy, did not survive the ordeal despite efforts by the rescuers to resuscitate him.

During the awards ceremony on board MCAS Cherry Point, Maj. Gen. Karsten Heckl, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commander, commented on the actions of the four Marines noting, “All of a sudden, in a split second, they encountered a mortal situation, an entire family in dire straits. And in that split second these Marines went into action, like Marines are prone to do.”

The selfless act of these Marines highlights not only their heroics but also the significant benefits our community enjoys because of their very presence. We are fortunate to have a strong contingent of uniformed military personnel living and working in our area- US Army Reservists, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and US Navy Sailors.

These military personnel and their families add a great deal to our community in a variety of volunteer programs and because of their travels and professional experiences, provide numerous cultural benefits as well. Considering the stringent recruitment requirements that military personnel must pass to serve in any of the uniformed services, we can be confident that they and their families will bring added benefits to our county and in the process make the very best neighbors.

The acts of heroism displayed on June 15, 2018 by Staff Sgt. Reichartwarfel, Cpl. Larsen, Cpl. McMullen and Cpl. Watson are not surprising. They are trained to act and they did. Their action deserves recognition and appreciation, not just for that act but for so much more - their willingness to serve and to be a part of our community.

To these four Marines, thank you for your service and for reminding us that you and all the other military personnel and families are great neighbors and community members.

Semper Fidelis. 

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