Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. --
The waves tumbled over one another, washing up along the shore. The tide began to rise, the water crashed against the jagged cliffside.
When the sun began to descend on that Sunday evening, Staff Sgt. Christopher Parise, 576th Flight Test Squadron missile handling evaluator, was in the right place at the right time.
That evening a retired military couple had come to enjoy the brisk evening breeze and views of the setting sun at Wall Beach on Vandenberg AFB. All was well until Al Freeman, a Vietnam veteran, had flashbacks of when he was young and his body was capable of taking on the waves while he surfed in Southern California. He headed out toward the water dragging his boogie board along with him. His wife, Carla Freeman, couldn’t stop her young-hearted husband from taking on the waves, so out he went against the tide.
For forty long minutes, Carla paced along the shore with gaping eyes tracking her husband’s every movement. One of her nightmares had come true, Al was stuck, battling the waves as they grew stronger while his body gradually became weak.
“I saw a figure out in the ocean, and I thought it was strange since it was so late in the day,” said Parise.
Luckily, Parise was out exploring and practicing photography at the right time. Carla instantly approached Parise, tears rushing down her face, as she stammered to tell him that Al was stuck in the tides and needed his help urgently.
“I didn’t think twice,” said Parise. “I needed to do whatever I could to save her husband.”
Parise rushed to the jagged rocks where he prepared to dive into the frigid water to rescue him.
“At first Al didn’t reach out for me to help him,” Parise said. “So, I extended myself to grab ahold of his forearm and began to shimmy his weary body out of the water. I got him up on the cliffside and was able to carry him over to my car where I turned on the heater and tried to warm him up.”
Parise quickly went to find cellphone service and immediately called 911 where he was able to spit out the important facts before the call was dropped from lack of reception. The response team arrived within minutes and took Al to the hospital.
“I think I was able to react so quickly to the situation because of my military training,” said Parise. “I knew what questions to ask him from the Self-Aid Buddy Care activities I’ve done, and I knew how to proceed in order to help him.”
Thanks to Parise’s quick reaction, Al sustained no serious injuries that night. Weeks after the event, Carla wrote Parise a letter explaining that her husband, a Vietnam veteran with Parkinson’s disease, had been feeling depressed, and she was uncertain as to why he chose to go out in the ocean that evening. However, if it wasn’t for Parise, she would have lost the love of her life, and for that, she expressed her full gratitude.
“He saved my husband’s life.”