John Campbell, 37, was presented with a Certificate of Valor for taking quick action to rescue the victims of a capsized boat.
"He is a special guy and we are certainly honored to have him here and proud to commend him through a Coast Guard Certificate of Valor," said U.S. Coast Guard Sector Cmdr. Capt. Jim Jenkins.
It was March 2011 when Campbell came across the overturned vessel in San Diego Harbor and 10 people struggling to stay afloat in the water. Campbell managed to help an elderly man, a woman and two children onto a boat, but he couldn't get to everyone in time. Two people who were not wearing life jackets did not survive.
"It was panic, you know, they just watched their own relatives, two of them at that time had drowned, one of them was right next to them. It was sad," said Campbell.
Campbell says he loves the water but knows just how dangerous it can be. When he was 21, he watched his best friend drown, and he later helped rescue a man out of a river. So while this isn't his first time in the role of a hero, he says the Coast Guard's recognition is something he won't forget.
"It's a huge honor. I love all of our forces that protect us. My dad was Navy, my grandpa was Navy. My uncle died in the Navy. I'm honored to be honored by them. It's very humbling," he said.
As he headed back on a boat again Thursday morning for a tour of the ports of L.A., courtesy of the Coast Guard, Campbell and his 9-year-old son, both strong swimmers, wore their life jackets. It's a precaution Campbell wishes every boater would take.