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2010-12-26 / Family

Granddaughter receives medal of heroism

By Erika Hernandez

Kristin Lunkley, poses with her medal she received on Dec. 8. Kristin Lunkley, poses with her medal she received on Dec. 8. Kristin Reger Lunkley, a 29-year-old former Coast Guard petty officer and granddaughter of long time Loyola Beach residents Tony and Barbara Dietz, received a rare award for heroism recently for risking her life to save a man trapped in an overturned sailboat in California’s San Francisco Bay in July 2008.

Lunkley received the Coast Guard Medal for heroism “in the highest tradition of the United States Coast Guard” in Sausalito, Calif. at the Coast Guard Station Golden Gate.

Lunkley was a crewmember aboard a 47- foot motor lifeboat from Station Golden Gate that responded to the overturned boat. When the crew realized that man underneath the boat was unable to free himself, Lunkley volunteered to swim in the cold water and rescue him.

She battled four-foot seas and 25-mile an hour winds to reach the trapped man. With the capsized boat quickly drifting to jagged rocks, Lunkley understood the need to remove him from a situation that grew more urgent by the second.

The crew from Coast Guard Station Golden Gate tow the sail boat Wing It after rescueing three of its crewmembers from the San Francisco Bay on July 24, 2008. The crewmembers were honored for their service in the line of duty for this rescue. (Photos courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard) The crew from Coast Guard Station Golden Gate tow the sail boat Wing It after rescueing three of its crewmembers from the San Francisco Bay on July 24, 2008. The crewmembers were honored for their service in the line of duty for this rescue. (Photos courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard) Without thinking of her own safety, Lunkley disconnected her lifeline, attached it to a life jacket, and shoved it under the sinking boat.

She yelled to the man to put on the life jacket. When she tried to pull him out, he became entangled in the sail rigging which pulled him underwater.

Reacting quickly, Lunkley immediately cut the submerged lines and was able to pull him free.

Shortly after, Lunkley and the man were both recovered by the crew aboard another 25-foot Coast Guard response boat on scene.

Once onboard, Lunkley helped treat his injuries. The man was delivered to emergency medical services and later on made a full recovery.

“I feel honored to receive this award, but it really belongs to the whole crew,” Lunkley said. “We were a team out there.”

The Coast Guard Medal is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who, while serving in any capacity in the Coast Guard, distinguishes himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.

To justify this decoration, the individual must have performed a voluntary act of heroism in the face of great personal danger of such a magnitude that it stands out distinctly above normal expectations.

Lunkley is the only person to have been awarded the Coast Guard Medal in 2008, and is one of only 310 service members to receive the award since it was established in 1949.

Lunkley was born in McAllen and raised in the Austin area where she graduated from Pflugerville High School.

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