Have you ever heard about the AFRAS Gold Medals? Let’s read on to find its history and interesting facts.
The AFRAS Gold Medal has long been a symbol of heroism to American and worldwide citizens, especially those whose life sticks to the ocean. It’s the third powerful medal that a USCG could be awarded in peacetime.
Back in the US Coast Guard’s Commandant meeting in 1976, attendants first initiated the idea about AFRAS. Organizers wanted it to be a non-profit under the lead of Sir Peter Compston. In the beginning, AFRAS was known as American Friends of the RNLI – a newborn association for rescue operations at sea, formed by Americans mostly.
During a long time of foundation, the organization‘s reputation sticks with its main project – the AFRAS Gold Medals. How did the project start and develop as we know today? This article will highlight some points from 1976 until now.
AFRAS Gold Medals
Table of Contents
- What is AFRAS and Genesis of Gold Medals?
- Who Deserves the Medal?
- Highlights in the History of AFRAS
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is AFRAS and Genesis of Gold Medals?
AFRAS, or Association for Rescue at Sea, started its operation for rescuing lives at sea in 1976. It remains to be a non-profit but has much more reputation because of all the actions it rewarded.
The organization leader has held multiple fundraising occasions to get the job done, seeking people’s support and advocates. The highlight of these events must be in Mansion House in the UK. Even though it didn’t gather many funds, VIPs’ presence had successfully marked its public image.
The operation of AFRAS continued until 1982, when they thought of how to help the US Coast Guard. People have problems with organizing rescue forces at sea as, at the time, human force and operation fee for them had been redundant. As a result, AFRAS called for help from volunteers, rescue squad, and USGC. They expected these people could join hands with rescuing ships and people’s lives at sea. And in return, their heroic activities would get rewarded.
However, it wasn’t a big prize until 1987. Through 5 years, there were no medals given except the first one in 1982. Finally, it became an official ritual annually when organizers came to agreements on the place and date of holding the prize. Since then, AFRAS has grown to be the main project in this organization.
Who Deserves the Medal?
The AFRAS Gold Medal is a prize but also a symbol for people to take, for example. As a result, people have conducted concrete terms on who will get the medals. It’s not simple since it’s a huge reward, and judges will vet the documents relating to the nominee through the following factors:
That he conducted a heroic action relating to rescue people at sea. The story should show that what he considered the other’s life the priority in that situation, even beyond his life if there is a small chance to save.
People are all equally born with the right to survive, so putting someone’s life above our own is not the idea for common citizenship. This heroism abstract idea is to apply to members of the United States Coast Guard – the organization involved in the crisis in 1982.
Besides, it is essential to guarantee the action’s authenticity. As a result, AFRAS only considers people nominated by their command. Nominees to the award must be in USCG duty hours at the time of the rescue so that he’s proved to be a hero.
AFRAS meant to grant the medal every year, but there were periods when no awards appeared. You can find some names below as receiver of gold medals.
Highlights in the History of AFRAS
VADM Thomas Sargent III, USCG
VADM Thomas Sargent III was the first chairman of AFRAS. He has run the organization through fundraising events, early years of operation. He wasn’t involved in the foundation of the AFRAS Gold Medal but the AFRAS organization.
Therefore, when the Gold Medals became a project, they named it after this man. For a long time, people heard about the AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent Gold Medal with very much pride.
VADM Thomas Sargent III, USCG
Executive Vice President David Chomeau
David Chomeau took over AFRAS after 1988 when the Gold Medal project had been on for six years. He might not be the one who created but the one who made it live again. In 1988, the project had gone so far with only a medal given away. There was no sign of the second until AFRAS proposed a new routine to throw the prize.
Chomeau, together with Edward Wake Walker, the RNLI’s Head of Public Relations, strengthened the cooperation between the two groups. They were the ones who came up with innovative ideas for fundraising projects in the following years.
Coast Guard Auxiliary and AFRAS
The AFRAS Gold Medals are only for USCG but little did we know the relationship between the two hadn’t been stable until 1990. This year marked the first stage in the relationship when AFRAS took Coast Guard Auxiliary to its operation.
The combination of Coast Guard Auxiliary and AFRAS created a more significant association for rescuing operations at sea. Even until now, they have known separate organizations; what they support each other is enormous.
The Genesis of the Silver Medal for Heroism:
Along with the growing relationship between AFRAS and USCG Auxiliary, the Silver Medals project was born. It’s to mark that there are grateful feelings for heroic acts from the Auxiliary group.
Don’t get it wrong when the medals are silver. The material doesn’t present the level of heroism act but symbols for the uniform of the USCG Auxiliary team.
Until now, we still see them wearing a bagel with silver strands while the USCG people wear the golden ones.
The process to conclude who is getting medals are almost the same. Obliviously, it’s impossible to say which act is braver. Only with the silver medals, AFRAS must consider education, vehicles at sea at the time, and nominee age.
Coast Guard Badge
Read our latest guide about history of afras.
Heroes for Rescuing People at Sea
Petty Officer William Milam of Air Station Kodiak 2007
On February 10th, 2017, Petty Officer William Milam became one of the heroes who got AFRAS Gold Medals for his act.
He was at the Air Station of USCG at the time and on his patrol. The helicopter has received the signal of 4 fishermen at F/V Illusion, near Unalaska. They got the call but very hard to locate the origin as the night was dark.
It was risky to conduct any action at that time when he hadn’t been sure about the location. Milam worked as a savior at sea after he circled the area. Finally, he found the ship where all four people were under-qualified clothes and had some cold symptoms.
He was decisive and brave enough to carry on that mission. The more important point is that William stayed calm enough to go through the necessary procedure with rescuing. He gave clothes to people, transferred them to the helicopter within the soaking situation at the ship that time.
In that year, there were four silver medals given to the Auxiliary force on July 25th.
Petty Officer William Milam at the ceremony
First Class Salvador Carire 2010
A vessel went down due to a storm near New Jersey on December 23rd, 2009. That incident put two other people in danger. The ship – Alisa Marie, caught a moment to send an SOS signal to nearby Coast Guard Station, and soon, the team headed by Carire traveled on a helicopter to the destination.
The weather was bad enough to make the rescue impossible. It’s not a big storm, but winds and darkness hold the team blind to search for the survivor. Carire decided to jump in the water and tried to reach the raft. Once he got the raft and found the man, he stayed calm after many times of failure and almost lost his life and put the man on quick first aid.
First Class Salvador Carire Speak at The Ceremony
Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Hylkema 2016
Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Hylkema was another hero of the USCG force. His heroic act happened on October 6th, 2016.
He worked in Station Gray Harbor, Pennsylvania. At that time, there was an incident happening with Grace’s owner. The man got stuck at sea offshore Long Beach. Because of the flow, the man couldn’t swim back to the shore and knew nothing to do.
Hylkema was decisive when he jumped into the water at 18 to 20 feet deep. He needed to swim on the surface for 150 feet to get close to the man. To help the operation go well, he brought the life ring with him and his companion would pull two people back to the ship.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Hylkema
Frequently Asked Questions
What time of the year are medals given?
When anyone is nominated for the Gold Medals, the authorities will vet the case and consider all terms’ validity. When the process finishes, they have the celebration happen right away. Therefore, we can say there is no specific time to award. Granting silver medals occur in the same way.
Where does the ceremony happen?
Since 1990, the celebration for the AFRAS gold medal is in Capitol Hill. It’s made public and honored to the eyes of the whole of America.
Who delivers the medals?
It’s supposed to be the President of the United States. However, he doesn’t present for the Congress but only for the AFRAS act of gratefulness.
Also, hosting the ceremony could be a Congressman, along with attendants of many other Congress members.
What are other Silver Medals?
In 2010, 4 Silver medals went to Aviation Survival Technician First Class Pepe Carire because of what they had done to save people.
The Silver Medals for Aviation Survival Technician First Class Pepe Carire
AFRAS Gold Medals and the Silver ones maintain the tradition of the organization about keeping peace at sea. It was and is always the main project of AFRAS in showing gratefulness to heroes and encouraging people to work for that.
It’s non-profit, but it survived well through people’s contributions, especially fundraising and advocates of the American Government.