Mim Mim – and her humans – was amongst the hundreds of lives saved at sea during 2022 and 2023, with their rescuers being honored for their actions at this year’s Association for Rescue at Sea Capitol Hill Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington DC, April 9. Read more about Mim Mim’s rescue below, in the AMVER Awards section of this article. Photo by Ben Strong, AMVER.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, captains and crews of commercial and private vessels and captains and crews of cruise ships will be honored for their heroic efforts at sea during the annual Association for Rescue at Sea Capitol Hill Gold Medal ceremony in Washington D.C. April 9, 2024.

While this search and rescue (SAR) awards ceremony is typically held every year in the nation’s capital, there was no ceremony in 2023 – therefore, this year’s event will honor both 2023 and 2024 award recipients.

The AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas Sargent III Gold Medal is awarded annually to an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the AFRAS Silver Medal is awarded to a member or members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary – both awards for acts of extraordinary bravery during a rescue at sea.

The Amver Safety Network is a voluntary, worldwide ship reporting system involving ships from over 140 nations. AFRAS annually presents a plaque to the captain and crew of an Amver participating vessel for exceptional humanitarian service in aiding in a rescue at sea. The Cruise Ship Humanitarian Assistance Award was established in 2016 and is presented to the captain and crew of a cruise ship in recognition of exemplary lifesaving or humanitarian efforts anywhere in the world.

The Geoff Pagels SAR Professional of the Year Awards were established in 2023 to honor the legacy of the first U.S. Coast Guard civilian SAR Specialist. One award is given to an individual for outstanding contributions to the mission readiness of Coast Guard SAR Professionals. A second award may be given to recognize an individual or team for outstanding professionalism in the planning and coordination of SAR mission.

On to our awardees!


Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jake Flores, maritime enforcement specialist at Maritime Safety & Security Team Houston and 2022 USO Service Member of the Year honoree, beams during a ceremony in Houston, Texas, Dec. 1, 2022. Flores’s command nominated him for the award for jumping into the Rio Grande to save a drowning baby during a patrol on June 2, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)

The 2023 medal is awarded to U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class David “Jake” Flores for the rescue of an infant child and two adults from the Rio Grande River June 2, 2022. The 2024 medal is awarded to Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua A. Marzilli, coxswain of a Station Maui rescue boat during the response to the unprecedented Western Maui wildfires August 8 and 9, 2023. You can read more about Flores’ and Marzilli’s heroic actions in this message disseminated by the U.S. Coast Guard.


The 2024 medal is awarded to U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Alfred Verdi, boat crewmember Auxiliarist Lori Barfield and boat crew trainee Auxiliarist John Durrer for their rescue of five adults and two children from a boat that lost power near the rock jetty in Los Angeles Harbor July 2, 2023. Read more about the actions of Verdi, Barfield and Durrer in this account of their actions that day.


The 2023 award for Outstanding Contribution to SAR Readiness was earned by Doug Samp, who serves as a U.S. Coast Guard civilian SAR Program Manager. Samp’s exceptional achievements have had enterprise-wide and national-level impacts, and his efforts went well beyond the requirements of his position. The 2023 award for Outstanding Professionalism in SAR Mission Planning and Coordination goes to Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) Norfolk, Va., for the coordination and response to a sailing vessel 406 MHz distress beacon activation June 5, 2022. Lt. Cmdr. John Mast, Lt. Andrew Grady, Lt. Victoria Moon, Chief Operations Specialist Brian Gainey, Operations Specialist 1st Class Scott Dempsey, Operations Specialist 1st Starr Franklin and Mr. Thomas Botzenhart demonstrated outstanding investigative work, coordination and expert search planning in saving the lives of three people.

The 2024 Geoff Pagels SAR Professional of the Year Award for Outstanding Contribution to SAR Readiness was earned by Scott Talbot. As the U.S. Coast Guard District 8 SAR Program Manager, Talbot manages one of the most robust SAR plans for the service’s largest contiguous area of responsibility, encompassing 26 states, more than 11,500 miles of inland rivers and 1200 miles of coastline. As a member of the National SAR Council, Talbot provides subject matter expertise to challenging cases across the Coast Guard.

The 2024 award in this category for Outstanding Professionalism in SAR Mission Planning and Coordination goes to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Fla., for the rescue of a missing fisherman Aug. 4, 2023. Cmdr. Nicholas Barrow, Mr. William (Tony) Wells, Operations Specialist 1st Class Blake Mann, Mr. Rex Walsingham, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Adrian Gutierrez and Operations Specialist 2nd Class Steven Rivera Moreno demonstrated outstanding interagency coordination and search planning in the rescue of a fisherman that was swept out to sea.

Click here to read more details of the expert lifesaving actions of all these noteworthy SAR Professionals.


The captain and crew of the Hong Kong-flagged tanker Silver Muna earned the 2023 award for rescuing two men and a dog from their powerless sailboat, more than 200 miles off the coast of Delaware.

Americans Kevin Hyde, 65, and Joe Ditomasso, 76, were sailing in cold wintery, conditions when they ran into trouble. Their sailboat had run out of fuel and power, which rendered its radios and navigation equipment inoperable.

U.S. Coast Guard and FDNY members welcome rescued boaters and their rescuers to Coast Guard Station New York on Staten Island, New York, on Dec. 14, 2022. Kevin Hyde and Joe Ditomasso drifted on the sailboat Atrevida II for days along the East Coast without power or fuel before being rescued by the crew of the tanker vessel Silver Muna. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

After their families hadn’t heard from them for many days, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a wide-scale search and rescue operation – including Coast Guard cutters and aircraft, ships from the U.S. Navy and commercial and recreational vessels.

Silver Muna’s Second Officer Raul Jr Deocadez spotted the de-masted sailboat on starboard side approximately two nautical miles away Dec. 13, 2022. The Master, Captain Neeraj Chaudhary, then diverted the ship to reach it and led his crew in embarking on a challenging rescue operation.

In heavy swells of 4-5 meters, the crew successfully brought the men – who had not eaten anything for five days – onboard by using the tanker’s crane with safety net and pallet. Their little dog Mim Mim, in her own sailing vest, was also lucky to be held in their arms while being winched up together to safety. After enjoying hot showers, water and hearty meals, Kevin, Joe and Mim Mim remained onboard for 26 hours and were cared for by crew until Silver Muna arrived in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Motor vessel Silver Muna is owned by Fleet Management Limited.

The captain and crew of the Amver-participating private mega yacht Mayan Queen IV take the 2024 award in this category for rescuing at least 100 people in the Mediterranean Sea.

Mayan Queen was tasked by the Greek Coast Guard to assist an overloaded migrant vessel with multiple people in the water off southern coast of Greece. According to news reports, the Cayman Island’s-flagged vessel crew actively participated in the major search and rescue operation after an Italy-bound migrant boat sank 47 nautical miles off Greece’s southern Peloponnese peninsula in the early hours of June 14, 2023.

Authorities reported at least 78 people drowned, but the boat was thought to be carrying in excess of 300 people, with conflicting reports putting the number of passengers as high as 750. A statement by the Hellenic Coast Guard claimed a coastal patrol vessel attempted to make contact with the boat several times before the disaster, but the “foreigners refused both supplies and assistance” and “stated their desire to continue their voyage to Italy.”


The captain and crew of Carnival Cruise Line’s ship Mardi Gras saved 16 lives in international waters, near the Florida Keys, June 3, 2022, earning them the 2023 award in this category.

By kees torn – MARDI GRAS, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=125825758

While transiting through the Florida Strait, the Mardi Gras crew observed a migrant boat,

potentially in distress. The Company Fleet Operational Center was notified as well U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West, to initiate/coordinate eventual rescue operations.

Bridge staffing was enhanced, and all additional shipboard involved parties were notified about the possible imminent rescue operations, including Security Team, Deck Team, Hotel Team and Medical Team. Additional power was made available to take thrusters online, getting the ship ready for maneuvering, while heading closer to the migrants’ boat.

Sector Key West came back to the Mardi Gras captain advising that they would need approximately six hours to get a Coast Guard cutter to the position of the sighting, and asked about the possibility for Mardi Gras captain and crew to conduct the rescue, or to await standing by in the vicinity and keep monitoring the migrants’ boat until their arrival.

Mardi Gras’ captain advised about inclement weather conditions in the

area, rapidly deteriorating due to the influence of the incoming Tropical Storm Alex,

and explained that lowering a rescue boat into the water was unsafe for the crew, but suggested maneuvering the entire cruise ship around the stricken vessel, and then assessing the feasibility of performing the rescue.

Mardi Gras was maneuvered approaching the migrants’ boat from the windward side, providing a shelter on leeward, the ship’s side door was opened and lines were thrown to the migrants’ boat occupants, in order to pull the boat alongside, as safely as possible, while Mardi Gras held position. Once alongside, underneath the side door, it was observed that the 15-foot makeshift boat was built of barrels kept together by metal sheets, and was unseaworthy. The boat was overloaded with 16 refugees, without lifejackets, with no means of propulsion, without food and water rations, stranded at sea for days, with their only hope that the gulf stream would carry them to the United States.

The rescue operations were completed an hour after the first sighting, all 16 people brought on board safely.

The captain and crew of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship Norwegian Breakaway saved 200 lives off the coast of Italy in 2023, earning them the 2024 Cruise Ship Humanitarian Assistance Award.

The ship’s captain and crew responded to a request from the Italian Coast Guard to render aid to a vessel of migrants and the rescue was safely effected Oct. 10, 2023 off the coast. You can read more about the Norwegian Breakaway’s captain and crew SAR efforts in this news article about their actions.