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    A rose in the foam

    USS Rushmore (LSD 47) rescues 65 stranded mariners

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Chelsea Milburn | 150611-N-SF984-032 USS RUSHMORE, At Sea (June 11, 2015) Lance Cpl. Jasmine Castaneda,...... read more read more

    Two years ago today, in June of 2015, we pulled you from the water.
    You were shaking, terrified. You’d been clinging to pieces of bamboo, empty water jugs, and plastic trash for four days.
    For each of those four days, you saw two of the people with you drown. When we rescued you, you were one of about 65.
    When I first saw you, myself and a couple other Sailors and Marines were running on the flight deck of Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). We saw a dark mass in the distant waves and slowed to a stop, shading our eyes with our hands trying to see what it was.
    I’ll never forget how my heart dropped when someone gasped and murmured in astonishment, “I… I think it’s people.”
    It didn’t take long before I was called to the pilot house to be briefed on what I was about to document as the photographer and journalist on board.
    We were coming to rescue you.
    For you, being rescued meant having men in foreign military uniforms, with skin colors you’d probably never seen, bring you to a giant, cold looking, gray warship.
    Being rescued meant being herded to even more uniformed men and women, some of whom were armed.
    It meant being pulled from the arms of the woman you held you to be searched, and you shaking even harder.
    Finally, you were dried off and wrapped in a blanket, and a corpsman put socks from an individual plastic package on your little, water-wrinkled feet.
    You sat on the edge of a blue fold-out mat and waited to be seen by a doctor, not that you knew what you were waiting for.
    I couldn’t imagine what was going on behind those beautiful, fearful eyes, but I knew the last thing I wanted to do was put a camera in that tiny, trembling face.
    I set my camera down and ran across the flight deck and up the ladderwell to my berthing to get a fake rose another Indonesian girl about your age gave me at an orphanage we visited in Manado.
    I sat down across the mat from you and smiled before crawling across to you and offering you the rose.
    You held it close to your chest, and I thought --I hoped -- you looked a little less scared.
    This photo was the last time I saw you in person before we gave you back to Indonesia, and right after I took it, you smiled at me.
    That smile, to this day, is still the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
    This year I was lucky enough to be the embarked mass communication specialist for Pacific Partnership 2017, a mission in Southeast Asia focused on training with nations in your region for humanitarian aid, search and rescue, and disaster response.
    I may not have seen you in two years, but I saw your face in the smiles of every child I played with in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Vietnam. I saw your hands in the ones that were grabbed to pull role players from the water in rescue drills.
    You may not know it, but for you, being rescued meant being reborn as a tiny, great equalizer; no one can see this photo and not understand why it’s important that we train for search and rescue and humanitarian aid.
    It’s not my photography that burned that message into this image; it’s you.
    In your face, we all see a child we love, and we are all grateful that your future wasn’t swept away by the sea.



    Date Taken: 06.10.2017
    Date Posted: 06.19.2017 13:42
    Story ID: 238089
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 156
    Downloads: 1