After a pregnant woman was caught in a dangerous rip current and pulled out to sea, a Marine officer put his own life on the line when he swam out to rescue her — and remained in the water to keep her afloat for an hour until rescue swimmers arrived. 

In December 2018, Maj. William Easter, the theater security cooperation officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force, was out PTing along the shore of Okinawa, Japan, when he heard a man call for help.

The man and his pregnant wife had been swimming when the weather took a sudden turn and a rip current formed, separating the two. While the woman's husband was able to make it shore, she was not.

Easter immediately directed one of the Marines with him to call emergency personnel, and sent another to find a flotation device, according to With a flotation ring in hand, he leaped into the water, where he swam more than 100 yards through 10-foot waves to reach the woman.

And there he stayed for nearly an hour after initial attempts by rescue personnel to reach them failed when one of their watercraft capsized, though eventually they made it safely to shore.

On Feb. 14,  Easter's actions that day were recognized when he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the service's highest award for heroism that occurs outside of combat.

“Easter went in the water to save that woman, but in my mind he saved four people,” Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, the III MEF Commanding General said, at the award ceremony.

“He was risking his own life,” Clardy added. “He had to keep himself alive, if he hadn’t gone in somebody else might have, so he saved the life of that person, and of course the victim, and she was pregnant. This was no small act and I am proud to present him with this award.”