Thomas McArthur, a rescue swimmer based out of Station Frankfort on Lake Michigan, had just completed a three-mile training run on August 15, 2010, when he headed to a local beach to cool off and go for a swim. After going in the water, McArthur noticed a strong undertow and decided against going out too deep.
About 15 minutes later, McArthur saw two teenage boys jump into the water from a break wall. The boys immediately struggled in the water, prompting a girl nearby on a pier to throw them a life ring. McArthur swam to the boys in the water, towing one of them to safety using the life ring. He then got out of the water and rand down the pier to help retrieve the second boy using a "throw line" and the help of a bystander.
Left to right: RDML Michael Parks, USCG, Commander of the 9th Coast Guard District; Leigh McArthur, Wendy McArthur,Jamie McArthur, AST3 Thomas McArthur and VADM Robert Parker, USCG, Commander of the Atlantic Area Coast Guard pose for a picture after AST3 McArthur received the Coast Guard's Silver Lifesaving Award in New York City, October 13, 2011.
But as soon as the two teens were safe, McArthur then noticed two adult men in distress in the lake. Using the throw line he fashioned to save the teenagers, he pulled the two men to safety. Incredibly, after rescuing the two men, McArthur saw yet another pair of young boys, who appeared to be brothers, being pulled under by the strong rip current. Without regard for his own personal safety, McArthur entered the water again and swam to the boys, who were in immediate danger. He immediately took one boy, who was experiencing breathing problems, back to shore.
During the rescue of the first brother, the boys' parents entered the water to save their son who was still in trouble. Bystanders on the pier attempted to assist the parents by using the throw line, but the line got snagged underneath the pier. McArthur swam to the pier to untangle the line, and delivered it to the parents and their son, using the line for assistance, the off-duty petty officer was able to save the three family members from further danger.
McArthur's helter-skelter day was not over. Back on the pier, McArthur saw a woman struggling with the strong current. He threw her the lifeline, but she was exhausted from fighting the current and let go of the line each time a wave crashed over her. McArthur entered the water for a third time, and swam the woman to the pier ladder. However, the woman was too weak to climb the ladder, so McArthur swam her to shore, delivering her to safety.
In addition to the number of daring rescues he performed that day, McArthur successfully coordinated rescue efforts of four more swimmers using the throw line from the pier, pulling each person safely from the waters.
After ensuring these individuals' safety, McArthur contacted the local Coast Guard station to alert them of the dangerous conditions at Frankfort Beach that day. Upon learning that there were no available members of the local police force to patrol the waters, McArthur decided to stay at the beach to warn people of the strong currents. On that same day, three people drowned at various locations on Lake Michigan as a result of the dangerous rip tides.
Thomas McArthur demonstrated incredible valor and heroism on what was supposed to be his day off. For rescuing 12 people from certain peril, Petty Officer McArthur was awarded the Coast Guard's Silver Lifesaving Medal on October 13, 2011 in New York City at the Coast Guard Foundation's 31st Annual Salute to the Coast Guard.