US Marine Who Died Trying to Save Drowning Comrade Awarded Medal for Bravery

November 4, 2020 Updated: November 4, 2020

At a ceremony in Parkville, Maryland, on Oct. 24, a Marine received the service’s highest medal for noncombat bravery, more than two years after he drowned in an act of heroism.

Lance Cpl. Corey Staten was just 23 years old when he died on July 4, 2018. He drowned attempting to save a fellow Marine in a river at Fort Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri, where he was training as a motor transportation operator, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

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A photo depicting Lance Cpl. Corey Staten is displayed during an Award Ceremony held by 4th Combat Engineering Battalion in Baltimore, Oct. 24, 2020. (Lance Cpl. Dylon Grasso/U.S. Marine Corps)

Staten had been off duty and swimming at Sapper’s Cove on the Big Piney River, along with four other Marines from the base, Stars and Stripes reported.

A female Marine began to struggle in rapid moving waters and was “quickly overwhelmed and was unable to gain the control required to counter the current in order to safely reach the shore,” stated Marine Corps citation presented along with the award.

“Without hesitation or regard for his own personal safety,” Staten entered the water to try and save his fellow Marine, the citation added. But he “was overcome by the fast current, which pulled him under the water and from which he never resurfaced.”

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The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is posthumously awarded to Lance Cpl. Corey Staten during an award ceremony held by 4th Combat Engineering Battalion in Baltimore, Oct. 24, 2020. (Lance Cpl. Dylon Grasso/U.S. Marine Corps)

Staten’s body was recovered downstream the following morning, while the other Marine survived.

His “swift and decisive bias for action led him to selflessly give his life to save another,” the citation adds.

With both his parents in attendance, Staten was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal at the 4th Marine Combat Engineer Battalion in Parkville. His mother, Nancy Staten, told Fox45 that the day prior to the ceremony marked three years since he shipped off to boot camp,

“He always talked about wanting to have a career,” she told Baltimore’s WBFF. “He chose the Marines because he said they were the toughest.”

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A U.S. Marine Corps Major with 4th Combat Engineer Battalion presents Lance Cpl. Corey Staten’s mother, Nancy Staten, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal during an award ceremony in Baltimore, Oct. 24, 2020. (Lance Cpl. Dylon Grasso/U.S. Marine Corps)

Wearing his dog tags around her neck, she accepted the award on her son’s behalf. She and other family members in attendance wore red face coverings with her son’s name emblazoned in gold—the Marine Corps colors.

The Marine presenting the medal said: “Mrs. Staten on behalf of the President of the United States and Commandant of the Marine Corps and a grateful nation, please accept this award on behalf of your son’s honorable and courageous acts.”

“I’m so proud of him because he just acted unconsciously,” Staten’s father, Walter Dukes, told the news outlet. “He just went in and his main concern was to save that person’s life.”

The ceremony was “bittersweet,” Dukes said, adding that his son’s achievement was “greater than anything I can ever experience. It’s hard to be a hero, it takes a lot.”

For Nancy Staten, the medal was a tangible reminder of her son’s sacrifice, Fox45 reported.

“It’s like he’s finally getting that recognition,” she said. “He wasn’t looking for recognition, but he’s getting recognition.”

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