On Tuesday, four Marines were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their heroic rescue of a mother and her twin daughters that were caught in a powerful rip in the summer of 2018.
Staff Sgt. Leary K. Reichartwarfel, and Cpls. Anders K. Larson, Austin McMullen, and Timothy R. Watson were honored for their heroism during a ceremony held at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the highest non-combat related award given by the Corps for heroism. The Marine Corps described the medal as being “awarded to individuals who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism, including lifesaving and attempted lifesaving acts at the risk of one’s own life.”
On June 15, 2018, the four Marines were visiting Atlantic Beach in North Carolina when they spotted a family of four being pulled out to sea by a powerful rip current. They later learned that both parents, Ali Joy and her husband Charles Austin Joy Jr., had gone out after their young daughters who were rapidly being pulled away from shore.
“Minutes after finding a spot, a rip current captured our twin daughters. My husband said ‘the girls are too far out… ‘ He ran. I ran. Austin got to them, but we all continued to struggle in the breaking waves where we could not stand,” Joy explained.
It was while the family struggled against the current that Reichartwarfel, Larson, McMullen, and Watson spotted them and sprung into action. Thanks to the efforts of the Marines, Ali Joy and her two daughters made it back to the beach alive.
Unfortunately, the girls’ father, Charles Austin Joy Jr. was non-responsive by the time they got him to shore. Efforts to resuscitate the man failed and he passed away.
“Austin did not make it, but the three of us did, thanks to the help of Marines and surfers, the woman who called 911, the men and women who helped the marines bring us in, and an amazing young lady who took care of us on the beach, drove us to the hospital, and stayed with us until family arrived.”
Since that tragic day, Ali Joy has founded Float Don’t Fight, an organization aimed at educating people on how to survive rip currents, in honor of her late husband. Despite her painful loss, Joy expressed her gratitude to the Marines that rescued her and her daughters from the rip current.
“It was amazing to see these young men who were on vacation and jumped in,” Joy told 13NewsNow. “They have their whole lives ahead of them and they did not think twice about risking their lives.”