Lt. Jeremy Austin, 36, didn’t expect to win an award when he took his family to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on March 23, 2010. But a decision by the Mule Creek State Prison corrections officer to jump into the frigid ocean to rescue a drowning swimmer eventually led to him receiving a medal of valor from the governor.
“At first I went through all the reasons I wasn’t going to get involved,” Austin said as he recounted the events at his Lodi home Friday afternoon. “I had my kids there and I thought he was too far out, but only one other person was trying to do anything and he never made it to the breaks. I knew (the stranded swimmer) had no other hope.”