You may remember the news stories that the nation watched in disbelief two years ago when Hurricane Harvey came pounding ashore in August of 2017. It was a massive storm, heavy with tropical moisture and powerful winds. It came ashore over Texas and Louisiana and brought incredible devastation with it. It became one of the most devastating and costly storms to hit the country.
There is nothing quite like the power and force of a hurricane. But Hurricane Harvey was a beast of yet another kind. The amount of water that fell during the storm was monumental and it came ashore with high tides inundating everything in its wake. The Houston, TX, area was hit especially hard.
The United States Coast Guard was deployed to the Houston area to help in the rescue efforts that became common during the storm. Petty Officer 3rd Class, Tyler Gantt, an Aviation Survival Technician, or a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, was deployed aboard one of the MH-65D Coast Guard helicopters that were deployed during the storm. He is credited with having saved and bringing to safety 59 people during the storms fiercest hours. For his heroic efforts during the storm he has been awarded the military’s oldest aviation award for heroism in flight, the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The citation includes the following details of his efforts.
Throughout the storm, Gantt and the helicopter crew had to deal with visibility below 50 feet, torrential rains and winds of up to 80 knots. On one occasion they were called on to rescue a critically ill pregnant woman who was trapped in her attic as rapidly rising flood waters were engulfing her home. He was hoisted down to her roof while battling the turbulence of the winds and avoiding live telephone wires. He had to rip through the roof without the aid of a chain saw. He was able to get to her and get hoisted back up over 100 ft. with her to the helicopter and then to medical facilities.
On another occasion he was lowered to a roof to help a family as the flood waters were threatening to overwhelm their house. At one point during this effort, an infant was swept away from his father’s arms by the fast moving water. Gantt jumped into the roiling waters and rescued the infant and then got him and the rest of the family hoisted up to the helicopter.
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Then he spotted another group of seven people signaling for help from the roof of their home. He was, once again, lowered by the helicopter on a line and methodically got every one of the seven people hoisted up to the helicopter, himself last, just as the flood waters swallowed the house. He repeated this kind of work, being hoisted and lowered to help people, for hours during the storm. By the end of the storm he was credited with having rescued 59 people.
Two other Coast Guardsmen were also awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for their heroic efforts during Hurricane Harvey as well.
USCG Cmdr. Scott Sanborn was awarded the DFC for his flying during the storm’s dangerous weather and thunderstorms, often in 50-knot winds during the many rescue operations he flew during that time. He was credited with rescuing 24 people. The other Coast Guardsman to be awarded the DFC was Lt. John Briggs, who commanded another MH-65 helicopter during the storm and was credited with rescuing as many as 120 people.
The award ceremony was conducted by Rear Adm. John Nadeau, commander of the 8th Coast Guard District at the Coast Guard Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.
The men and women of the United States Coast Guard are often unsung heroes. The fact is that they are conducting rescues like this on a regular basis. They are also conducting dangerous drug interdiction efforts on the high seas against the forces of nature and the actions and intentions of some of the world’s most dangerous drug cartels. It is good to see the heroism of some of these Coast Guardsmen recognized with one of the military’s highest awards for conspicuous heroism. As a nation, we cannot thank the men and women of the United States Coast Guard enough for all that they do for us.
The Veterans Site sends its congratulations, its respect and its sincerest thanks to Aviation Survival Tech. 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, to Cmdr. Scott Sanborn, and to Lt. John Briggs for their heroism during Hurricane Harvey. You have honored, and added to the long and noble heritage of the United States Coast Guard with your unselfish dedication to others. Semper Paratus!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.