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US soldier saves Vietnam vet trapped in freezing VA river

Appomattox River in Virginia. (Virginia State Parks/Released)
March 25, 2022

A U.S. Army soldier rescued a Vietnam War veteran from a Virginia river earlier this month after he fell out of his boat.

Mike Goodwin, 75, was fishing in the Appomattox River when he lost his balance and toppled into the freezing cold river.

“When I reached back for the anchor rope, I just went right over,” Goodwin told CBS 6 on March 14.

The elderly fisherman, who is also on oxygen, was left clinging to the side of the boat, unable to pull himself up.  

“I got ready to turn loose a few times, just couldn’t do it,” he recalled.

Meanwhile, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Miserlian had just finished class at Fort Lee and was preparing to go fishing at the same river not far from where Goodwin was trapped.  

Eventually, Miserlian noticed a boat without anyone in it.

“[Then] I thought I heard a cry for help,” he said, noting that he wasn’t sure what the sound was because he had forgotten to wear his hearing aid that day.

After moving closer to the sound, Miserlian realized he “definitely heard somebody holler for help.”

Miserlian jumped into action, wading into the frigid water toward the empty boat that Goodwin had been clinging to for nearly 30 minutes.

“The first thing that happens is I sink past my knees in some real sticking mud,” Miserlian said. “[Then] I noticed he was on oxygen, so I asked if he was breathing fine.”

Miserlian said he couldn’t get Goodwin back into the boat, so he climbed in himself and started the motor.

“I told the gentleman to hang on, we’re going to pull the anchor and try to get to the boat ramp,” Miserlian said.

His plan worked and both the soldier and the veteran eventually made it to dry land.

“It was a miracle seeing him standing there, already waist-deep in the water and heading in my direction, it was a miracle,” Goodwin said. “It was a miracle, there’s no getting around it.”

Once on shore, paramedics worked to warm up Goodwin to prevent hypothermia.

“When they finally got a temperature on me in the ambulance, it was 94.2,” Goodwin said.

The pair reunited after the incident, where Goodwin showed immense gratitude for Miserlian’s life-saving act of kindness.  

“Thank you so much,” the Vietnam War veteran said.

“You’re welcome, anytime,” the soldier responded.