Airman saves children from drowning

  • Published
  • By Ms. Jodie Grigsby
  • Air Force Weather Agency Public Affairs
An Airman here was expecting to have some fun in the sun on a weekend trip to the beach during a recent trip. He was not expecting to save children from drowning.

Staff Sgt. Jozsef Nagy, an Internet services technician with the Air Force Weather Agency, was attending a network management training class at Kessler Air Force Base, Miss., when he and fellow classmates took a day trip to Pensacola Beach, Fla. Sergeant Nagy said it was a beautiful day, and the beach was packed with people soaking up some weekend sun. He was wading in the water when one of his classmates yelled, "Are those kids in trouble?"

Sergeant Nagy said he turned and noticed three children who were about eight feet in front of him; all appeared to be struggling in the water. He then saw a young boy, about 7 years old grab hold of an older girl. The girl, who was about 12 years old, went under the water from the weight of the boy. He said it was then that another girl, who was about 8 years old, turned to him and asked, "Can you help us?"

"I didn't think; I just reacted," said Sergeant Nagy, who has been in the Air Force for six years.

Sergeant Nagy dove underwater and reached the children in a matter of seconds, pulling the older girl from under the water. He said the other two children grabbed hold of him almost instantly. At that point, he said he told them to calm down and that he was there to help.

They were about 60 feet from the shore, and standing 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Sergeant Nagy said he could barely touch the ground. As he headed toward the shore, he had to tread water to keep his head, and the three children that clung to him, above water. He said the force of the waves was huge and that he had to fight with it to keep from losing ground.

"It felt like that with every two steps forward, the (waves) pulled us back one step," he said.

Sergeant Nagy, a father of a 3-year-old, said his parental instincts were in high gear, and he zeroed in on getting everyone safely to shore. Once he reached shore, he said the two smaller children ran off without a word. The older girl sat there for a few moments as she caught her breath.

"You could tell she was tired, probably both physically and emotionally," he said.

Sergeant Nagy said he asked her if she was OK. She just nodded her head and then walked away.

"Knowing that they were OK was all the thanks I need," Sergeant Nagy said.

But not everyone thinks he should go without recognition.

"The Air Force is about service and sacrifice, and Sergeant Nagy demonstrated both of these when he put his own life in danger to save three children from certain harm, and possible death," said Col. David Handle, AFWA's communications and information directorate director. "If that isn't heroism, I don't know what is."

Sergeant Nagy shrugs off his "hero" status and credits his Air Force training for his actions.

"The Air Force teaches you attention to detail, situational awareness and to stay calm under pressure," he said.

All of which served this Airman, and three young children, very well.