When Cpl. Jordan Perez heard a couple calling for help, he ripped off his boots and sprang into action. The Marine saw two civilian kayakers, their vessel capsized in the waters of 21 Area Boat Basin, a training section for amphibious vehicles at Camp Pendleton, California that opens up onto the Pacific Ocean.
It was around 1 p.m. on Feb. 15, and large, sharp boulders in the basin had caused strong waves that flipped the kayak, leaving the kayakers struggling in the water.
“That’s when I took action,” said Perez in a recent press release. A combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, Perez was working at a nearby construction project when another Marine noticed the drowning couple. “I took my boots off and just started swimming.”
The Marine swam 250 meters through the choppy waves to reach the kayakers. He grabbed the woman’s hand, pulled her back on the kayak and started pushing the boat back to the rocks. The woman’s husband could swim, but he started panicking halfway to the shore. Perez swam back to the man, put a life jacket on him, and continued pushing the woman to safety.
Perez was in the right spot at the right time: while other Marines also noticed the drowning couple, he happened to be training with a retired reconnaissance Marine to prepare for assessment and selection with the Marine Raiders. Part of that training includes swimming two hours every day.
“That [training] takes away any hesitation that comes with putting your own life at risk,” Perez said. “Since I had been training, I was confident that I could get myself out there and get those people back.”
Perez was awarded a challenge coin from Brig. Gen. Dan Conley, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, on Feb. 19th. Though Perez technically does not fall under Conley’s command, the general wanted to personally thank him for what he did. A challenge coin is presented to Marines who go above and beyond, and any further awards will be processed by his chain of command, the press release explained.
“I’d like to believe a lot of people would do what you did, but I know they wouldn’t,” Conley told him. “So, to hear it actually happen is just amazing. That was really gutsy of you.”
But it’s just par for the Corps, as far as Perez is concerned.
“It’s what Marines are expected to do,” he said.
Featured Image: U.S. Marine Cpl. Jordan Perez, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, poses for a photo in the 21 Area of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 19, 2021. Perez was awarded a challenge coin for saving a couple after their kayak flipped over in the 21 Area Boat Basin. Perez is a native of Antioch, California. (Marine Corps photo / Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)