USARPAC warrior receives Soldier’s Medal

| September 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Gen. Robert B. Brooks, right, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific, awards the Soldier’s Medal for heroism to Maj. Andrew Downey during a presentation ceremony at historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Aug. 29, 2017. Maj. Downey rescued a Milwaukee couple and infant child who were swept into the ocean on the island of Kauai in April 2017. The Soldier’s Medal is the highest non-combat award for heroic actions and is approved by the Secretary of the Army. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers
U.S. Army-Pacific Public Affairs

FORT SHAFTER — U.S. Army-Pacific held an award ceremony for Maj. Andrew “Drew” Downey, Aug. 29, here, at historic Palm Circle.
Downey, a native of Philadelphia, and the USARPAC special technical operations chief, received the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing a family from drowning earlier in the year.

On April 23, a Milwaukee, family visiting Queen’s Bath, a sometimes turbulent tide pool on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, was caught off guard when a wave swept them from where they were standing into the water below.

Queen’s Bath is infamous for its unpredictable rough tides and jagged rocks, and has claimed lives in the past.

Downey, who was visiting with his family from Oahu, jumped 20 feet into the rough water – without hesitation – and helped the two parents and their 11-month-old child to safety.

Maj. Andrew Downey is presented the Soldier’s Medal and certificate for his heroic actions saving the life of a Milwaukee couple and their infant child who were swept into the ocean on the island of Kauai in April 2017. During a presentation ceremony at historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Maj. Downey is joined by his wife Rifka, daughter Payten, and son Xavier. The Downeys are flanked by Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert, left, and U.S. Army Pacific Commander Gen. Robert Brown. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

Downey first helped the mother to safety. After ensuring the mother was on shore, he then went back in the water and got the baby. Downey then assisted the father, who had found a rock to hold on to, to negotiate his way back to a safe area. Downey learned later that the couple were not good swimmers.

Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of USARPAC, provided the opening remarks during the ceremony. Brown spoke about Downey’s actions as well as selfless service, one of the many Army values.

“You look at (Downey’s actions) and you say, well maybe everybody here would have done the same thing,” said Brown. “I feel that as part of our Army values we would, but (Downey) did it.”

Brown also spoke about the cooperation between the military and the community. “Military here in Hawaii is part of the fabric of the community, helping out in schools, volunteering in the community. It’s a key part and we very blessed to be here in this great state working together,” said Brown. “Drew is an example of that.”

After the opening remarks and the reading of the citation, Brown presented Downey with the Soldier’s Medal.

“Drew is going to receive the highest award you can receive during peacetime,” said Brown. “The Soldier’s Medal goes all the way up to the Secretary of the Army (for approval), and I’m really proud to be able to present this to Drew.”

Downey thanked everyone for coming out to the ceremony, saying he was doing what many other people would have done in a similar situation.

“I have to say I think a lot of people would do the same thing, and first responders do it every day without any thought for their own personal safety,” said Downey. “I’m happy that everyone came away pretty much unscathed.”

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