SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Several U.S. Army soldiers in South Florida for the funeral of Sgt. La David Johnson came to the rescue of two swimmers in distress, including a minor, on Sunny Isles Beach, Saturday evening.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the near drowning occurred at 19051 Collins Ave., just after 6 p.m.
The soldiers, who are members of the U.S. Army Third Special Forces Group, told 7News they drove to South Florida from North Carolina to participate in Johnson’s funeral. 7News cameras captured Johnson’s brothers-in-arms as they carried the 25-year-old’s casket to its final resting place, Saturday morning.
After the burial service in Hollywood, the soldiers said, they came to Sunny Isles Beach to relax and clear their minds. Shortly after, they noticed people flailing their arms in the air and screaming for help.
“I saw the guy waving his arms,” said Elvis Contreras, one of the soldiers.
The men, who range in age from 21 to 31 years old, immediately jumped into action. “We all jumped up and ran in there,” said Adrian Sanchez. “It’s our job.”
Sanchez and his colleagues then dove into the water. “My focus is getting into the water and figuring out what happened, what was going on,” he said.
As they made their way into the water, Sanchez spotted the younger victim. “When I got under, I saw a child, I grabbed the child,” he said. “I tried to swim for the shore as good as I could.”
He then handed the minor to another soldier, then went back into the water to retrieve the adult victim. “We all helped take him back to the shore,” he said.
One of the soldiers said the older swimmer needed serious medical attention. “The lifeguards showed up, and they started trying to resuscitate him as best as they could,” said Alex Fink.
Officials said the adult patient, a man in his 50s, was resuscitated by Ocean Rescue lifeguards and rushed to Aventura Hospital in critical condition. The pediatric victim was in stable condition.
Johnson, a Miami Gardens resident, and three other soldiers assigned to a Green Beret unit were killed in an ambush in Niger, Oct. 4, under circumstances that have triggered an investigation by the Department of Defense and the FBI.
Some of the soldiers who rescued the swimmers said they knew Johnson personally, which is why they came to South Florida.
Fink said Saturday’s incident underscores how being in the armed forces is something that does not end during times of leisure. “The Army is not a 9-to-5 job. It’s 100 percent, 24/7, every day, every minute,” he said. “Even when you’re sleeping, you’re resting to get ready for the next day. You’ll complete a mission, start a new mission. That’s just how the Army is, how the military is in general.”
“I’m happy I was there with my brothers. We all reacted the same way,” said Sanchez. “We all ran to the water, and we did the best we could.”
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