Armed Forces News

U.S. Marines, Sailors, civilians and their families pose for a photo after surviving a flash flood at Ta-Taki Falls, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 13, 2020. The members of the group found themselves in a life-threatening situation and assisted each other and local nationals to return safely.

Two Marines who helped bring dozens of U.S. and Okinawan citizens to safety during a flash flood were recognized on June 15 for their bravery. Master Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Thomas and Master Sgt. Sara Thomas each received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for their actions last Sept. 13. The two were on a family outing at Ta-Taki Falls with their families and several others when heavy rainfall caused streams to rise quickly to dangerous levels. At that point, the group started looking for ways to get back to safety.

“The first thing that same to my mind was that we need to make sure we get everybody out of there safely,” said Ronald Thomas, a distribution management chief with III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). Once they made their way to a safe location on a hillside, they began helping other stricken hikers to safety as well. The endeavor entailed using a rope from a nearby fence and fording the current at a site in the river where the rapids were the least dangerous. As conditions worsened, they were forced to cross the swollen river again – assisting other stranded hikers as well. They finally made their way to safety hours later.

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“The most impactful thing the Marine Corps has ever taught me is to work as a team and to take care of each other,” said Sara Thomas, G-2 plans chief with III MEF.
In non-combat situations, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal is awarded for meritorious service.

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