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Officer Paul Bryant

Virginia Beach Police Department, VA

On September 27, 2015, dispatchers received a call of a male drowning. Firefighters from Engine 17 arrived at the scene and observed that the victim was in the water struggling for his life. Eventually two of the firefighters made it to the victim, who was unconscious and face down in the water. They tried to get the victim to the shore; however, the current and rough seas took them in the opposite direction. The firemen were met continuously with high, constant, large waves, which caused them to go under the water. Eventually the firemen realized that the victim was deceased and it was now a recovery effort. A large wave separated the two firemen and one of them drifted away. The fireman that drifted away was struggling, worn out, and in obvious distress. Numerous waves were crashing on him and each time he resurfaced he tried to catch his breath, but instead was taking in large amounts of water.

Officer Bryant responded to the drowning incident and observed the struggling fireman in the water. Without hesitation, he removed his gun belt, radio, boots, and vest. He also had the presence of mind to grab two life jackets. In spite of the treacherous water conditions and with great peril to his own life, Officer Bryant entered the water. The surf was extremely rough with seas ranging in height from 6 to 8 feet with numerous, dangerous rip currents.

Officer Bryant swam through the dangerous seas to the struggling fireman. He assisted with getting the life vest on the fireman. Although he now wore a life vest, the fireman continued to struggle just to stay above the water. He was showing signs of fatigue and exhaustion and was beyond helping himself. Officer Bryant grabbed hold of the fireman by his life vest and pulled him through the treacherous seas toward the shore, where the fireman was transported to a local hospital.

Once again without hesitation, Officer Bryant headed back out into the ocean to assist the second fireman. He was able to link up with the second fireman and a lifeguard who had also entered the water to help. A rescue swimmer was able to get a tow line to them and they were pulled back to the shore.

The actions of Officer Bryant demonstrate extraordinary bravery and a willingness to save the lives of others, without regard to his own personal safety.