Navy Volleyball Players Save Two Lives in Florida


As elite military volleyball players from around the U.S. armed forces competed for victory at the 2018 Armed Forces Volleyball Championship here, they might not have known they shared the court with four lifesaving sailors.

Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives
Navy Chief Petty Officer Aniahau Desha. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson
Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives Navy Chief Petty Officer Aniahau Desha
Navy Chief Petty Officer Aniahau Desha. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson

On the afternoon of May 5, 2018, All-Navy Men’s Volleyball players Chief Petty Officer Aniahau Desha, from Hilo, Hawaii; Seaman Gaston Yescas, from Tucson, Arizona; Petty Officer 1st Class Sheldon Lucius, from Pearl City, Hawaii; and Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Essick, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, risked themselves to save the lives of two teenage girls at Naval Station Mayport Beach, Florida.

These sailors bravely responded to cries for help from beachgoers, stating that two people were in trouble 75 yards off shore. Understanding the peril at hand, the four sailors entered rough surf conditions to retrieve the endangered swimmers.

“I was on the beach with my wife, and everyone showed up there, Josh, Sheldon, and Gaston. We’d just sat down, and some ladies came up the beach were yelling for help, seeing that the girls were out in the waves, needing help. They were in trouble, so we just ran into the water and got them,” Desha said.

Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sheldon Lucius. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson
Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sheldon Lucius
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sheldon Lucius. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson

As the rescuers reached the teenagers, one of the girls was holding on to her unresponsive friend.

Lucius pulled the conscious swimmer ashore, ensuring her safety, while Essick and the others carried the unresponsive swimmer up onto the beach.

‘She Wasn’t Breathing’

“When we got on shore, as soon as I picked her up, I noticed that she wasn’t breathing. It was obvious that she wasn’t breathing. I checked for her pulse -- there was no pulse. So we immediately started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth,” Desha said.

Desha and Yescas conducted CPR until emergency rescue personnel arrived to relieve them.

“Since I’m a corpsman up to date with the CPR certifications and all, and I was also a lifeguard for eight years, this was honestly like a normal drill, I would say. I’ve been in a lot of incidents like this,” Yescas said.

Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Essick. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson
Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Essick
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Essick. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson

On scene officials provided observations.

“Two teenagers are alive today as a direct result of [these sailors’] quick thinking, bravery and composure under extreme pressure,” said All-Navy Men’s Volleyball coach Gilburto Bermudez.

Thomas Lyszkowski, First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services assistant fire chief echoed the sentiment, saying the swimmer found unresponsive had been released from the hospital.

‘Those Sailors Put Others Before Themselves’

“Because of the actions of these sailors, she’s alive,” Lyszkowski said.

“Those sailors put others before themselves, and did so at great risk to their own safety,” added Mark Brusoe, First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services fire chief.

Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives
Navy Seaman Gaston Yescas. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson
Photo of Navy Volleyball Player who days before Armed Forces Championship saved two lives Navy Seaman Gaston Yescas
Navy Seaman Gaston Yescas. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Benson

Yescas said, “It makes me feel great to hear that she made it out alive. Her mom sent us a message on Facebook to let us know that she was getting discharged, and that her daughter was going to write us a letter and send us a picture just saying thank you for what we did.”

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that this girl’s going to see another day because of what we did,” Desha said. For the parents, especially, and as a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine hearing the news that something happened to my daughter. And if someone was there to help, I’d like them to do the same for me if it was my child. So, I’m pretty honored.”