SALT LAKE CITY — One Utah Air National Guard member was spending time with family at an eastern Utah reservoir, while another was at his civilian job at a shooting range.
Both are credited with saving lives of others in those off-duty moments last year and were honored Saturday for their courage.
Utah Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson awarded Airman 1st Class Jensen Martinez the Utah Medal of Valor and Tech. Sgt. Urian Marshall the Utah Cross.
"I want to thank you for your courage, your sacrifice and your willingness to answer the call of duty," Henderson said, addressing the men and fellow members of the Utah National Guard. "It's overwhelming to know we continue to be protected because of the sacrifice each of you have made."
Martinez was visiting Duchesne County's Starvation Reservoir on Aug. 28 when he and his father noticed two people struggling in the water. The father and son didn't have life jackets, but swam out and rescued an 18-year-old woman and her companion, then rendered first aid.
A medical helicopter brought the woman to a hospital, and both of those pulled from the water ultimately recovered.
Martinez's award is the state's highest for members of the Utah National Guard. It is reserved only for those who have demonstrated extraordinary courage.
Martinez is now in the state's police academy, training to become a member of the Utah Highway Patrol, said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Garrett.
On June 6, an accidental discharge at the firing range where Marshall was working severely injured a person there. Marshall jumped into action, applying tourniquets to both of the victim's legs with the help of a co-worker.
"The specific actions of Sgt. Marshall likely saved the victim's life," said Garrett, the state command chief for the Utah Air National Guard.
Marshall was awarded the Utah Cross, a top honor for those who distinguish themselves with bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
Both men donned black face masks as they accepted certificates from Henderson in a scaled-back ceremony at the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Boyack said he was "beyond proud" of the airmen.
"Both acted selflessly, and in the truest form of what it means to be a member of the National Guard," Boyack, the commander of the Utah Air National Guard, said in a prepared statement. Their quick thinking and application of their training "no doubt contributed to the positive outcomes in both situations."
Several of their colleagues were applauded for their work last year, including for their role in helping Utah respond to the coronavirus in testing, contact tracing and other efforts.
Garrett and Henderson said the outfit rose to meet the constant challenges of 2020, including the pandemic, the March earthquake, the May demonstrations against racial injustice that were punctuated by violence in the state's capital, and the September windstorm that felled trees and knocked out power in northern Utah.
The volunteer corps "not only survived but thrived," in each of those initiatives, Garrett said.