A Marine received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal — the highest non-combat award for heroism — for saving the life of a woman who had been swept off a cliff in Hawaii.

Cpl. Robert Farmer, a small arms repair technician stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was spending his Labor Day at the China Walls cliffs, a popular destination on Oahu. Then he saw a huge wave sweep a woman off the side of a cliff, according to an Indo-Pacific Command press release on Nov. 3.

“I thought she was stuck on the rocks at the base of the cliff. She wasn’t there,” Farmer said in the release. “When I spotted her stuck on the coral, I thought to myself, all right, I need to get there. There was a large swell, the conditions were rough, but I had to help, so I jumped.”

Farmer swam through the strong waves to reach the woman and pull her to the base of the cliff, according to the INDOPACOM release. With the help of a surfer, he carried the woman to the top of a hillside.

There, another Marine, Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Prevette of 3rd Littoral Logistics Battalion, stepped in to administer first aid, according to the INDOPACOM release. Farmer worked with paramedics to check the woman he had saved for injuries.

The woman survived.

Farmer said in the release that, as an experienced white-water kayaker, he knows what it’s like to be trapped in water.

“I’ve been there before,” he said. “I know how scary it is. I’ve been there when others have helped me, I’ve been there when I had to help myself. Having someone by your side makes the situation 100 times more bearable. It gives you a little bit of hope and assurance.”

On Nov. 2, Col. Jonathan Sims, commanding officer of the 12th Marine Regiment, presented Farmer with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. The medal is awarded to Marines and sailors who demonstrate heroism while not in combat with an enemy. Service members who save others’ lives can earn the medal only by risking their own lives.

“We are all very proud of Cpl. Farmer,” Sims said in the release. “He put himself in harm’s way and saved a life that would have otherwise been lost. His actions were consistent with our core values and embody the exact behavior we’ve come to expect of our Marines.”

Farmer is part of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, which is part of the 3rd Marine Division.

“I am extremely humble in receiving this prestigious award, and I would like to recognize Lance Cpl. Prevette for her actions that day as well,” Farmer said in the INDOPACOM release. “She performed well under pressure and helped provide necessary first aid.”

“I believe as Marines we are trained to help people in need, no matter the time, place, or circumstance. I am thankful I was able to have a positive impact in this situation.”

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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