Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class, U.S. Coast Guard
Duty Station: San Francisco
Hometown: Temecula, Calif.
U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class (Rescue Swimmer) Christopher Leon saved four persons from certain peril during a night rescue 60 miles offshore of San Francisco on June 20, 2014. Faced with 15-foot seas, Leon deployed and swam to a nearby submerged vessel to prepare them for extraction. One at a time, he grasped the survivors, jumped into the sea and swam hard to keep their heads above water. Using brute strength, he lifted each survivor into the rescue basket to safety. Between rescues he was swept away 500 yards from the vessel. When the aircraft reached a critically low fuel state, the aircrew attempted to deploy the rescue raft before departing, but it was swept away, leaving him to make a split-second decision whether to retrieve the life raft and risk leaving the lone survivor in greater peril, or to remain with the survivor aboard the swamped vessel. Leon remained, huddling to protect the survivor from the elements in the open ocean for more than two hours until the helicopter returned for the final hoist.