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For diving into danger — on the home front — a Navy rescue swimmer is honored

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, with combat distinguishing device (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn)
December 05, 2020

His day job involves jumping out of helicopters into dangerous waters to rescue people — and it turns out, Petty Office 1st Class George Parsons III’s willingness to protect others doesn’t stop there.

He’s just won the Navy’s highest honor for heroism outside combat, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Parsons, a helicopter aircrewman with Norfolk-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9, was working on his new house in Elizabeth City, N.C., when he was startled by a neighbor’s shouts and then by a man running past, chased by a police officer and headed for the fields and woods nearby.

He moved to secure his dog, and when he turned back, he saw the suspect and the officer struggling, on the far side of a ditch. Parsons could see the suspect reaching for the officer’s holstered gun.

“I didn’t really think about it. In a Navy HSC, we’re used to risking something to help people. That’s just part of the job,” he said.

He sprinted 100 yards to the men and — his high school football days helped here — then dived and tackled the suspect. The man, wanted for alleged larceny, was charged with several offenses including assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, larceny of a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Parson’s C.O., Cmdr. Michael Marks, said that over his Navy career, he’s never known anyone else to win the Navy and Marine Corps medal — though he sees plenty of bravery from the sailors of his squadron.

Parsons, for instance, is “someone who has to jump into raging waters in the middle of night to save people, putting the life of another ahead of his own,” Marks said.

And Parsons did that Navy thing for a police officer in trouble, he added.

The medal came as a surprise — especially since Rear Adm. John Meier, commander of Naval Air Forces Atlantic, came over to the squadron’s hangar to present it.

“The fact that he responded so immediately without thinking about your own personal safety and only thinking about how to defend that law enforcement officer truly reflects credit on yourself, on our Navy and Naval Aviation, and the squadron,” Meier said, before pinning on the medal.

“I am honored to be here to today to meet you and present the award.”

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