A Marine who rescued four civilians who were caught in a rip current was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal – the service’s highest honor for heroism not related to combat. 1st Lt. Aaron Cranford had been diving near Onna Point, Okinawa, last April when he witnessed the distressed civilians – who also were diving. They were close to being swept to sea by the rip current. Noticing that the stricken divers had reached a safe zone from which they could get out of the water, he entered the area and rescued them one by one.

“I could definitely tell that the divers were in distress,” said Cranford, a supply officer assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, during the Jan. 8 award ceremony at Camp Schwab, Okinawa. “Their gear was not the way it should have been and they were waving their arms back and forth – trying to get people’s attention.”