Cadet awarded meritorious achievement ribbon after saving father from drowning

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 2/6/19

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — On Oct. 5 of 2018, something unthinkable happened to the Seladones family of Lillian.

While on a family rafting trip, David Seladones was swept downstream where his raft …

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Cadet awarded meritorious achievement ribbon after saving father from drowning

David Seladones (pictured with his wife Elaine and daughter) of Lillian credits his daughter, Sierra, with saving his life during a rafting trip in October. Sierra, a ninth-grade student at Elberta High School and a cadet seaman apprentice with the Robertsdale High School Naval Junior ROTC, was awarded the Meritorious Achievement Ribbon, the highest honor a cadet seaman apprentice can receive, during a ceremony held Wednesday, Jan. 30 at RHS.
David Seladones (pictured with his wife Elaine and daughter) of Lillian credits his daughter, Sierra, with saving his life during a rafting trip in October. Sierra, a ninth-grade student at Elberta High School and a cadet seaman apprentice with the Robertsdale High School Naval Junior ROTC, was awarded the Meritorious Achievement Ribbon, the highest honor a cadet seaman apprentice can receive, during a ceremony held Wednesday, Jan. 30 at RHS.
JOHN UNDERWOOD / STAFF PHOTOS
Posted

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — On Oct. 5 of 2018, something unthinkable happened to the Seladones family of Lillian.

While on a family rafting trip, David Seladones was swept downstream where his raft slammed into a tree near the bank, resulting in temporary loss of breath. While fighting to regain his breath, he lost control of the raft and in desperation, grabbed onto the tree and held on for dear life.

“I was scared,” he admits. “The water was moving really fast, I couldn’t catch my breath and it was getting harder and harder to hold on. I didn’t know what to do.”

But his daughter, Sierra, knew exactly what to do. A 14-year-old freshman at Elberta High School, just months before Sierra had begun training with the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training (ROTC) program at Robertsdale High School.

“Everything was going through my mind,” she said, “but the only thing I could think of was that my father was going to drown and I had to save him.”

After hearing her father’s cry for help Sierra jumped into action, grabbing her father just as he lost the strength to hold on. Then after he lost consciousness, was somehow able to pin her father against the tree to prevent him from floating down river.

Eventually, her mother reached them and the two were able to hold on until another person on the river heard them calling for help.

“She didn’t listen to me when I told her not to go in after him,” said Sierra’s mother Elaine. “It was very scary not knowing which of them to save and thinking that I was now going to lose them both, but she told me that God would give her the strength to save her father.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, Seladones was awarded a citation “for meritorious achievement while serving as a member of the Robertsdale High School NJROTC unit,” from Commander M.J. Ladner, Area Manager for Area 8, which includes Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and the Florida Panhandle.

“This is the highest honor that can be given to a cadet seaman apprentice,” said Lt. Commander Frank Starr, senior instructor at Robertsdale High School, who presented Seladones with the award on behalf of Ladner. “In my 13 years of doing this, I have only given out six of these. This is a very prestigious award.”

Dated Jan. 7, 2019, Elaine and David Seladones said they found out about the award a week earlier and had to keep it a secret from their daughter, who was surprised with the award on Wednesday. Also on hand for the award presentation were RHS Principal Joe Sharp and Elberta High Principal Branton Bailey.

“I am just very proud to receive this award,” Sierra Seladones said, “and I’m so happy that things turned out the way they did.”