130723 -- Sgt. Michael A. Pickett was enjoying a relaxing Saturday swimming at Atlantic Beach July 6, but all that changed when he saw someone on shore begin to shout and point toward the water.
Pickett turned to look and saw an 8-year-old boy struggling to keep his head above water. The child had been pulled about 70 yards off shore by a rip current, said Pickett, a special intelligence communicator with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2.
“As soon as I saw him I swam straight out as fast as I could,” said Pickett. “I didn't know how long he had been going under and I didn't want to take the chance of him going under for good and me possibly losing sight of him.”
Without hesitation and at risk of getting pulled out to sea himself, Pickett swam to the distressed youth, said Gunnery Sgt. Elek L. Williams, a special intelligence communicator with MWHS-2 and Pickett's staff noncommissioned officer in charge.
“After reassuring the boy and supporting his efforts to stay afloat, (Pickett) kept his wits about him and swam perpendicular to the current until the rip no longer affected their course,” said Williams. “Still supporting the weight of the boy and now further away from safety, he made his way back to shore.”
Pickett turned the boy over to the care of a lifeguard approximately 20 yards from shore. Relieved to know the child was alive and well, Pickett took a well-deserved rest on shore.
“I have a son that's about to turn 6 (years old) so the only thing I could think of was what if it was him out there, and I hope someone else would do the same thing,” said Pickett.
Pickett's quick and selfless actions made all the difference that day, said Williams.
“Pickett's immediate response to the situation saved the boy from being swept out to sea in a rip current and potentially drowning,” said Williams.
MWHS-2 nominated Pickett for the 7th Annual American Hero Awards to be presented by Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force. The awards recognize Marines for heroic action both at home and abroad.
“I would 100 percent do the exact same thing if I was presented with the same situation again,” said Pickett. “We as Marines are trained more than the average person, and if we can use the skills we have been taught to help someone in need, I think we should do it no questions asked.”