A Toms River native who was awarded one of the Navy's highest honors shared his heroic story with WOBM.

 

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Kirckof received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal after he saved the lives of at least two of his shipmates when their ship ran aground in the Pacific Ocean.  The U.S.S. Guardian struck a reef in the Sulu Sea while the vessel was traveling from the Philippines to Indonesia in January of 2013.

Kirckof, a graduate of Toms River East High School currently assigned to Naval Munitions Command on Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, SC, spent almost 5 hours in shark-infested waters making sure all his crewmates got to safety.

"One person at a time would jump off the boat," Kirckof said.  "I would take hold of that person, transfer them - about a 70 yard swim though about 8 foot waves - to a coral reef and then I would get them in the lifeboat, swim back out and get the next person."

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command)

Kirckof is directly credited with saving the lives of at least 2 of his shipmates and with assisting in the rescues of more than 40 others.  He says his work as an Ortley Beach lifeguard prepared him for a life spent saving others.

"I actually saved a little kid once when he was face down in the water," Kirckof recalled.  "I pulled him up just in time.  I actually thank God my grandma was there that day because she's the one who pointed him out."

Admiral John Richardson, Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, presented Kirckof's medal on April 11, 2014.