A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on January 10.
Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Dennler received the medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the U.S. Department of the Navy, for heroic actions while leading a Boy Scout troop, July 2016.
While camping in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, the troop experienced a major storm with up to 80 mph gusts and lightning strikes. Two trees fell on the campsite, killing a scout and an adult volunteer and severely injuring others.
When Dennler couldn't contact anyone on the radio for help, he canoed more than 1.5 miles at night in 60 mph winds to a ranger station to bring back help and medical supplies.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal falls in order of precedence just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star. It was first bestowed during World War II, to then Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. Only about 3,000 have received the award since. To win this award, there must be evidence the act of heroism involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awardee.
The award came as a surprise to both Dennler and his classmates, who listened in silence while academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter read the award citation then gave him a rousing standing ovation.
"It was an incredibly humbling and unexpected experience," said Dennler. "I'm very thankful to everyone who helped to make that happen and for the support of my family and friends."
Dennler is a political science major and member of 20th Company. He completed two years of college at George Washington University before transferring to the Naval Academy.
"USNA has taught me how to work and think in environments where many things are out of my control, and I think the academy helps to create mindsets that put others first," said Dennler. "I am incredibly thankful for those lessons."
An active member of the academy's Semper Fi Society, he hopes to serve in the Marine Corps after graduating from the academy in 2019.