By Staff Sgt. Justin SilversAugust 29, 2017
HONOLULU - U.S. Army Pacific held an award ceremony for Maj. Andrew "Drew" Downey Aug. 29, 2017 at historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Downey, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and 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, Wisconsin 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 unsuspecting rough tides, jagged rocks, and have claimed lives in the past.
Downey, who was visiting with his family from the island of Oahu, jumped 20 feet into the rough water without hesitation and helped the two parents and their 11-month-old child to safety.
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, negotiate his way back to a safe area.
Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of USARPAC, provided the opening remarks during the ceremony. Brown spoke about Drew's actions as well as selfless service, one of the many Army values. "You look at (Drew'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 (Drew) did it."
Brown also spoke on 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."
The Soldier's Medal is the highest honor a Soldier can receive for an act of valor in a non-combat situation. Actions by the service member involves personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.