UNION, NJ – A Union native has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the United States Department of the Navy to members of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.

Union native Marine Cpl. Timothy Watson from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, along with Staff Sgt. Leary Rechartwarfel, Sgt. Anders Larson, and Corporal Austin McMullen, received the award on January 28, 2020.  The heroism hinges on the actual level of personal "life threatening" risk experienced, and it must be clearly established that the act involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awardee.

At the award ceremony, Maj. General Karsten Heckl said, “I’m about to award the highest peacetime decoration for heroism.” The award was presented to the Marines for their heroic actions on Father's Day, June 15, 2018. 

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On that day, the Joy family of Virginia were visiting Atlantic Beach, North Carolina when the family’s twin girls got caught in a rip current.  The girls’ parents swam to help, but also got caught in the current.

Watson and his Marine friends were getting ready to leave the beach when they heard a distress call, grabbed two surfboards and swam out to the family.  They were able to safely rescue the mother and daughters.  The father, Austin, was in cardiac arrest.  The Marines delivered him to the shore where they were met by rescue personnel.  The Marines proceeded to return to their base.

Austin Joy did not survive the incident.  Weeks later his wife, Ali Joy, began her search for the Marines who rescued her family.  She turned to social media and the news media in the Virginia Beach area.  She located the Marines at Cherry Point, North Carolina.  The Marines were reunited with the Joy family last August when they were invited to the United States Live Saving (USLS) National Championships in Virginia Beach, where they received the Heroic Act Award. 

On January 28 this year the Marines were once again reunited with the family they rescued.  The Joy Family was invited to the Navy and Marine Corps Medal award ceremony. Ali Joy has started a foundation called ‘Float Don’t Fight’, to  educate people on how to survive a rip current or how to help someone who is in trouble.

Watson attended the Union school district from kindergarten through eighth grade and is a 2012 graduate of Seton Hall Prep, West Orange. During his high school days and until he enlisted, he worked as a lifeguard at the Knights of Columbus pool in Union.  Watson attended Union County College and Virginia Tech before enlisting in the Marine Corp.  He began his career with the Marines, starting with boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, and Camp Legeune in North Carolina in March 2017.  He completed his studies at the Twenty Nine Palms Air Base, California.  Watson has been stationed at the Marine Air Base Cherry Point since May 2018.  Watson is currently serving in the Middle East.