It was a very dark and cold night in Alaska. The wind was blowing strong, and only a couple hours of sleep had made me feel even worse than I had
when I had went to bed. Military life was just not for me. It was my night on duty, and at 23:00 hours I was to report to the guard shack to relieve
the other night watchman. As tired as I was, I was still up a few minutes early, and was just slowly walking to my destination. Little did I know
what the night was to bring.
It was a long walk down the side of the mountain from the barracks to the guard shack. I had to cross a bridge over the road once I had reached the
bottom of the steps. It was nearly half way across the bridge when the wind brought the sound to my ears. I froze in my tracks. I listened very
close. Again, the wind brought a sound to my ears. It was a cry for help. Someone was screaming for help, and they seemed close.
I ran as fast as I could to the other night watchman. He was inside the guard shack watching a little tv, and waiting for my arrival. He was tired
and ready to go to bed. I burst thru the door, and screamed at him to get up, someone was in trouble. We took off out the door, and began scouring
the base looking for any sign of a person in danger, or hurt. There was nothing. I couldn't hear the cry for help any more. After a few moments, I
began to doubt what I had heard. Perhaps, it was just the wind, but something inside of me knew better.
We walked down toward the pier where the larger vessels where tied up, and then we both heard the cry for help again. It was clear. Someone was in
the water. We were both wearing the heaviest military issue clothing that we had that night, and knew that if someone was in the water, they had only
moment more to live. We had to be fast. We called the Officer on duty that night to inform him of the situation as we raced to the Rescue Station a
couple hundred feet from us. We burst thru the door with such intensity, we scared the people on watch there that night to death.
Within a minute, two small rescue boats where racing from their slips, lights shining, searching every inch of the ocean. People were running
everywhere. Every other military vessel on the pier was utilizing their search lights in an effort to find the person we had heard. The other night
watchman and I ran up and down the pier looking as well. There was panic in everyone's eyes.
For 30 minutes, everyone searched, but noone was found. We hadn't heard the voice again screaming for help. We feared the worst. It was too cold
for anyone to survive if they were still in the water. That we no longer heard them was a bad sign. About this time the Officer in charge of the
rescue boats came up to us and said that they couldn't find anything. He asked us if we were sure we had heard someone. We both replied that we were
positive. He walked away.
And then we heard it again. The wind had shifted slightly, and carried the cry for help to us once again. We could tell that it was coming from the
other side of the channel. We ran as fast as we could to the Officer, and begged him to look across the channel. Within moments, the two small boats
were there. It was a tense couple of minutes. We heard the cry for help several more times as we watched the boat's lights searching the shoreline,
and then they began to focus their lights in one spot on the shore. They had found something.
Less than five minutes later, the boats came racing back at full speed. Before they had even reached the pier, and ambulance pulled up behind us, and
two EMT's jumped out in preparations for the boat's return. They had found a man, moments from death, clinging to a rock just out of the reach of the
water. He had removed his wet clothes to try to get dry and warm, but hypothermia had already set in, and he was very near death. When they took him
from the boat he was completely blue. The guys on the rescue boat told me that the man had gotten very drunk, and decided to see if he could swim
across the channel and back, but once he reached the other side, he was too weak and cold to continue. They said that if I wouldn't have heard him,
and persisted in making everyone look, he would already be dead. He was only a few moments from death when they found him.
As they put the man in the back of the ambulance, the EMT's told the man that I was the one that heard his cries for help. I had saved his life. He
looked my in the eyes, and told me "Thank you. I'm alive because of you. I'm starting my life over today". I was touched. I thought that not only
had I saved the life of a man, I thought that my actions to save him had caused him to see that changes in his life and thinking were needed, and he
was on the right path again.
Two days later, I saw the same man in a bar...drunk...talking to his buddies about how this time he could make it back when he swam across the
channel. I left the bar. I didn't want to know the outcome of his foolishness. This was the day that I realized that you can't help someone that
isn't willing to help themselves. I recieved a metal and nice little piece of paper with some official writing on it because of that night, but what
I learned was far more important.
edit on 10-7-2012 by isyeye because: (no reason given)