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A Lifeguard’s First Save Receives a Military Honor

A Lifeguard’s First Save Receives a Military Honor
Everyone else in my family was lifeguards so I dreamed of becoming a lifeguard someday.

An American Red Cross-trained lifeguard made her first save at the Yano Fitness Center in Camp Zama, Japan, on March 5 and came away with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Army.

Somers Overly, 20, stood guard at the pool while the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion trained for an upcoming intramural sports competition. As she watched the soldiers, she noticed one soldier having trouble swimming and clutching his chest. She immediately leapt into action, and with the help of another soldier, pulled him from the pool.

“Out of the water he still had difficulty breathing,” Overly said. But after talking with him, she was able to help him manage his breathing until it was under control. Then she placed a call to 9-1-1.

Later, Overly learned that the soldier had both a heart murmur and asthma. The soldier is undergoing tests before returning to full duty.

The next day at work Overly’s boss called her a hero. But the accolades didn’t stop there. She also learned she would be receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from the battalion’s commander. Since the military cannot award medals to civilians, Certificates of Appreciation are how they recognize civilians who have gone the extra mile for them.

“It boggled my mind,” Overly said. “I was thrilled just to have saved someone, but to have that as well, I couldn’t stop smiling.” In a simple ceremony, Lt. Col. Joseph O. Ritter, commander of the 35th CSSB, along with several members of his battalion, honored her with the certificate.

For new lifeguards, she has one piece of advice: “Keep your eyes open. I can’t stress that enough. It’s easy to be distracted so keeping track of people in the pool helps keep your eye on the pool.”

More than 300,000 people enroll in the American Red Cross Lifeguarding program each year, which trains lifeguards at pools, waterparks and non-surf beaches. People who are interested in lifeguarding can contact their local aquatic facility to find Red Cross Lifeguarding and Junior Lifeguarding courses.

For Overly, getting trained to be a lifeguard was inevitable. “Everyone else in my family was lifeguards so I dreamed of becoming a lifeguard someday.”

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.