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The highest lifeguard award presented by USLA is the Medal of Valor. The primary purpose for creating this award is to give due recognition to an individual lifeguard who voluntarily risked their life, to an extraordinary degree, in saving, or attempting to save another person, or who sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others. USLA also extends the Heroic Act Award to non-lifeguards.

2014 Medal of Valor Recipient:

  • Ben Carlson (posthumous) - Lifeguard, Newport Beach
  •        On July 6, 2014, Ben Carlson, a 15-year Newport Beach lifeguard, jumped off a boat to help rescue a struggling swimmer. He never surfaced. An autopsy determined that he died from accidental drowning and found scrapes and bruises on Ben’s forehead and nose. The swimmer made it safely back to shore. Conditions were turbulent, with waves reaching 10-12 feet. It was a weekend of many rescues because of strong rip currents. On July 13, nearly 1000 people turned out for a paddle-out honoring the 32-year-old lifeguard at Newport Beach. And, a memorial statue of Carlson will be erected on Balboa Pier. On Oct. 9, the United States Lifesaving Association issued its first posthumous Medal of Valor award to Ben Carlson, with his parents accepting in his honor. "We can never say thank you enough. What he did, saving that person’s life, was amazing. We just wish he was here to celebrate with us," said Mike Beuerlein, president of the California Surf Lifesaving Association.
    2012 Medal of Valor Recipients:

  • Mark Brown - Lifeguard, San Diego
  •        On November 20, 2011, a 19 year veteran San Diego Lifeguard responded to a man stuck in a waste-water treatment's drainage pipe (known as "Gorilla Cage") along the Tijuana River Valley. The undocumented immigrant was trying to cut across the swift waters near the water facility in heavy rainfall to the U.S.. The victim was approximately 12 feet down the 20 foot underground pipe on a narrow cement ledge with bolts sticking up and water and debris falling on him when Mark suited-up and entered the 2-foot pipe-opening to conduct the rescue. The area was difficult to access, as a continual flow of water and rising level contained all kinds of contaminated and hazardous debris. If the victim had fallen off the cement ledge, he might not have survived. "When you're a rescuer you really don't think about the outcome or whether I'm able to put my own life at risk. The main focus was to get him out of there in a timely matter," Brown said. The veteran lifeguard, a member of the Boating Safety Unit, regularly patrols an area from Point Loma to Torrey Pines State Beach.

    USLA Lifeguard Medal of Valor
         Recipients from California agencies

      Albers, Bob 1999 San Diego, CA
      Bartlett, Mike 2005 Huntington Beach, CA.
      Beuerlein, Mike 1989 Huntington Beach, CA
      Blackford, Matt 2010 Newport Beach, CA
      Borland, Tim 2003 Port San Luis Harbor District, CA
      Brown, Mark 2012 San Diego, CA
      Buck, Nathaniel 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Carlson, Ben (posthumous) 2014 Newport Beach, CA
      Carter, David 1991 Cal State Parks (Russian River District)
      Cicchetto, Sean 1996 San Diego, CA
      Coats, Eric 2006 Cal State Parks (Lake Perris)
      Corbo, Christian 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Culp, Casey 1998 California State Parks, CA
      Feighan, Mark 2010 San Diego, CA
      Fellars, Timothy B. 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Fesler, Jeff 2003 Port San Luis Harbor District, CA
      Gitelson, Joel 2006 Los Angeles County, CA
      Grigsby, Scott 1994 Los Angeles County, CA
      Griguoli, Rich 2003 California State Parks, CA
      Harris, Ed 1999 San Diego, CA
      Higa, Brian 2012 City/County of Honolulu, HI
      Horn, Brit 2005 Sonoma Coast State Beach, CA
      Keulana, Brian 1996 Honolulu, HI
      Korber, Paul 1998 Ventura County, CA
      (posthumous to rescue effort)
      Larsen, Billy 2003 Pismo Beach, CA
      Liebig, Peter 2010 San Diego, CA
      McDonald, Daryl 2010 San Diego, CA
      Meyer, Greg 2010 Newport Beach, CA
      Milligan, Joe 1989 California State Parks, CA
      Murphy, Timothy 1996 California State Parks, CA
      Northhelfer, James W. 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Panis, Marc 1989 Huntington Beach, CA
      Pepper, Laine 1999 San Diego, CA
      Quigley, Patrick 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Quigley, Patrick 1999 San Diego, CA
      (this is his second award)
      Raines, Dave 1999 San Diego, CA
      Snow, Kevin 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Sproull, Mark 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Stephenson, Michael 1996 California State Parks, CA
      Straub, Don 1991 Cal State Parks (Russian River District)
      Tegland, Ormand 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Trager, Tom 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Vipond, Jon 2010 San Diego, CA