A Virginia-based sailor who was lifeguarding at the Dam Neck Annex beaches rescued a child from drowning last month.

On June 30, Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Michael Y. Yang, then a student at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Oceana in Virginia Beach, noticed a boy struggling to swim in a rip current roughly 20 yards off shore.

“It was very high tides. [The] strong current pulled the kid into deeper water,” Yang, 21, said in a Navy release. “[The] kid began struggling and I noticed from the stand and radioed ‘Charlie Down’ and sprinted and swam out to him.”

The boy, 9, originally cried for help while swallowing water, but Yang said the child was unresponsive when he reached the boy, adding that he suspected the child passed out from exhaustion but was alert again once they reached shore.

“When I got to him, I jammed the [lifeguard rescue] can into his chest and shouted at him to hold the can but he wasn’t responding or grabbing it, so I grabbed his body with my left arm and kept him tight on the can with my right arm while executing a combat sidestroke kicking toward shore,” Yang said.

Yang brought the child to the shore and continued to monitor his condition before EMTs got to the scene and took the boy to a hospital. The Navy said the boy’s condition then stabilized.

Yang, who is now assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 32 in Virginia Beach, earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions saving the child, according to the Navy.

Yang is originally from Savannah, Georgia, and joined the Navy in 2019. He started life guarding in high school and has continued to do so since.

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