Airman, Marine save child's life at White Beach
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Daniel, I need your help; I can't find Brody."
It was late afternoon Christmas Eve and Cassie Hernandez just realized she couldn't find her 3-year-old son, Brody.
The Hernandez family was at White Beach, Okinawa, with two other families. Hernandez had planned to take the families' children to the beach. After searching and having no luck, Liam, 8, the son of Master Sgt. Daniel Tull, aviation ground support department aircraft rescue firefighting chief and operations chief for the 1st Marine Air Wing, mentioned he had seen Brody heading toward the beach.
Rather than pointing toward the stairs that led to the beach, Liam pointed to the cliff.
"No way he fell down there," Tech. Sgt. Allen Reeves, 18th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance production supervisor, remembered thinking after hearing the news.
Reeves recalled looking over the railing along the cliff and hearing the small boy calling for help.
To his surprise, Reeves saw the toddler about 20 feet down holding on to the wired cable netting. Used to stop large boulders from breaking apart and rolling down the cliff side and injuring people below, the netting was the only thing that kept the toddler from tumbling down the cliff.
"The worst popped into my head," Daniel said. "I didn't know how far he had fallen or his current condition, so we just took off to try to get there as soon as we could."
"I remember thinking, 'what am I going to see, what am I going to find when I get to him,'" Reeves said. "I was trying to prepare myself for a scene that was just the worst imaginable whether there was open wounds, blood,or broken bones."
Immediately the duo alerted Hernandez to call 9-1-1 and rushed toward the winding stairway that led to the bottom of the hill.
"Our objective was clear: we needed to get to him as fast as we can," Reeves said. "It had to be done, and we were the only two there."
Reeves, stopping half way down the stairs, began climbing to the top of the 175-200 foot cliff, while Daniel made his way to the bottom of the hill to the beach, and began his own ascent.
"I continued coming around the cliff until Brody was directly above me, and then I began to climb the wired cable up to him," Reeves recalled.
Reeves, who took a more difficult route with heavy vegetation and jungle, was able to make it to Brody first and checked the child for further injury. While he waited for Daniel to arrive, he safely secured the child.
"I checked Brody's entire body for any more injuries such as broken bones or internal injuries (and asked) him if he's in any pain," Reeves said.
Fortunately, Brody had minimal injuries -- a couple of cuts and scrapes and a gash on his head.
Shortly after Daniel's arrival, the two quickly came up with a plan to get Brody to safety.
The men decided to use an infant carrier to strap Brody in and tow him on Daniel's back. The duo relayed the plan to their wives, who were above them on top of the cliff, and instructed them to go inside the cabin and grab the carrier.
"Just being able to get up there and evaluate the situation (allowed us to) come up with best plan possible and then executing it effectively is something the military has taught me," said Reeves.
After struggling with the net and the carrier, the duo was able to secure Brody and begin their descent with Reeves leading the way.
"(We) weren't able to make it out of the netting (at the same time) successfully," said Reeves. "So to make it out we had to take Brody out of the carrier again and one at a time get out and then strap him back in."
When reaching very steep declines in the cliff, Reeves then acted as support for Daniel, allowing him to climb down his body and repeating the process until the duo made their way to the bottom of the cliff where Navy masters-at-arms and fire department first responders were waiting for them.
"It was successful because we were there together," said Reeves. "Daniel would literally use my body for footing and grip. It was a team effort from start to finish."
After undergoing an initial evaluation, Brody was taken to the U.S. Naval Hospital, Okinawa, where he received staples to close the gash in his head and got some much-needed rest.
"Everyone was very relieved and happy to see he was up and talking and thankful he wasn't seriously hurt," said Daniel.
Thanks to the efforts of Reeves and Daniel, Brody was safe, and the families were able to continue their holiday break without any more scares. The next morning the families spent their Christmas celebrating the holiday by opening presents and continuing to stay thankful for what they had.