Life-saving Airmen honored in Atlantic City

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht
  • New Jersey Air National Guard Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nestor Rivas, Staff Sgt. Lavone Graham, and Senior Airman Salomon Sterling, all with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Security Forces Squadron, were honored for their life-saving actions during a ceremony at the Covid-19 vaccine mega-site in the Atlantic City Convention Center on May 17, 2021.

For more than a year, New Jersey National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been aiding their communities by manning Covid-19 test sites and now Covid-19 vaccination sites, processing thousands of patients a day.

On April 15, at the end of a shift, the three Airmen noticed that a civilian individual gained access to their area, and was attempting to jump from a balcony on the second floor of the convention center - nearly a thirty foot drop. 

Without hesitation, the Airmen jumped into action, first trying to talk the person down.

“We were able to use the skills we learned in Security Forces,” said Rivas, who is also a corrections officer in New Jersey. “We talked to the individual, and told him he had things to live for, until we were able to get close enough to pull him off the ledge.”

“I was just happy that we were able to save his life,” said Graham, who also credited his Security Forces training with helping the situation.

Stirling, who as a civilian is a security specialist for Gucci headquarters, was proud to make a difference.

“I was able to do what I was trained to do,” said Sterling. “To help others and to be there for my fellow Airmen.”

The Airmen were presented with citations from Atlantic City’s Mayor Marty Small Sr., and Atlantic City’s Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Wilson Washington, Jr., as well as U.S. Army Commendation medals presented by Brig. Gen. Patrick Kennedy, Deputy Adjutant General and commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard, and Col. Robert Hughes, commander of Task Force Iron Guard.

“We salute you,” said Mayor Small, Sr. “Continued success and best wishes in serving our country to continue making us the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

“On behalf of the city of Atlantic City, we appreciate and commend you for preventing an attempted suicide on April 15, 2021. Your quick and selfless actions have not gone unnoticed,” said Washington. “Mental health is a very serious issue, which too many people suffer in silence. However, because of your quick thinking, someone gets a second chance at life and an opportunity to get the help they need.”

New Jersey Air National Guard Command Chief Michael Rakauckas said, “Over the past 14 months, our Airmen and Soldiers have been embedded in our communities for Covid-19 response, civil unrest, and election support missions. This was just another example of the professionalism and dedication to service by our Airmen, and we couldn’t be prouder.”