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Coast Guard Re-Presents Gold Lifesaving Medal To Local Hero

The Coast Guard re-presented a Gold Lifesaving Medal to a hero who saved a woman from drowning at risk to his own life—8 years after the original medal was stolen from his residence.

One cold winter evening, Capt. Edward Drennan was heading home from work when he overheard an emergency call regarding a woman in the icy waters of the Missouri River near Weldon Spring, Mo. As a towboat captain who understood the dire circumstances, he re-routed his evening commute to a nearby bluff to see if he could locate and rescue the woman who would have otherwise assuredly perished.

The broadcast he heard was via CB radio on his pickup truck nearly 40 years ago. His actions occurred on the evening of December 10, 1980. He did locate and rescue the woman; an act of selfless heroism that almost cost him his own life. Weakened and in a state of near paralysis due to the cold, Drennan required the help of others to be retrieved—after he had ensured that the victim had been saved.

Drennan was originally presented the Gold Lifesaving Medal soon after the incident. It remained a prized personal possession for over 30 years. But in 2011, it was stolen from his residence. Years after he gave up any hope of its return, a local St. John, Mo., police chief learned of the stolen medal and contacted Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River to inquire about the potential for replacement.

On March 2, 2020, during a St. John City Council meeting, Capt. Scott Stoermer and members of his sector leadership team once again recognized Drennan for his lifesaving act by re-presenting him with the Gold Lifesaving Medal. The medal was pinned on by Chief Robert Connell, the police officer and military veteran who initially took the active interest in supporting Drennan.

In attendance were not only the Drennan’s family, but also–and meeting him for the first time—the family of the victim whose life he saved. As Capt. Stoermer remarked, “Fewer than 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals have ever been awarded, and those who wear [them] include heroes who are the very fabric of the Coast Guard. Their names include Joshua James, Ida Lewis, and the crew of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station. For his heroism, Mr. Drennan—‚whose father served in the Coast Guard—has earned the admiration of his nation. Tonight we are honored to stand beside him.”

Established by Act of Congress in 1874, the Gold Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to any person rescuing, or endeavoring to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck or other perils of the water.

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