USAF Airman Awarded Posthumous Honors for Selfless Surf Rescue

Jessica Reyes Posana and Erneto Posana accept the Airman’s Medal on behalf of their son, Elijah Posana at a Coast Guard / USAF ceremony in Houston (USCG)

Published Apr 26, 2022 11:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a ceremony at Sector Houston-Galveston on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force honored a deceased airman who helped save three people from a rip current. 

On May 2, 2021, Senior Airman Elijah Posana was swimming about 100 yards off Surfside Beach, Texas with three of his cousins when a rip current pulled them all away from shore. Posana and his cousin Ethan told their two younger relatives to swim parallel to the beach, and they pushed them toward the shore to help them escape the current. However, a wave separated Elijah from Ethan and carried him farther out. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search with assistance from local law enforcement, but without success; Posana's father later found his son's body on the beach.

“The Coast Guard’s motto is 'Semper Paratus – Always Ready'," said Coast Guard Capt. Jason Smith, commander, Sector Houston-Galveston. "Elijah more than embodied this motto by immediately taking action at a time when most would only be concerned with saving themselves. He noticed three of his young cousins were in danger and pushed them to safety. In doing so he saved the lives of those close to him, sadly at the cost of his own. Elijah’s heroic actions will be remembered as one of the most courageous and heartfelt beach rescues in the Galveston-Freeport area.”

Posana was a Houston native, and he joined the Air Force in 2019. He was assigned to the base security squadron for the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and he was promoted to Senior Airman after his death.

At the ceremony, Air Force Lt. Col. Devin L. Sproston posthumously awarded Posana the Airman's Medal. The honor is awarded to an Air Force member who has distinguished himself or herself by a heroic act (other than combat). Posana's parents attended and accepted the medal.

"Senior Airman Posana in his final act in life, heroically sacrificed himself, so others may live," said Sproston.