Jake Flores - 2022 USO Service Member Of The Year
by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnick
December 13, 2022
Selfless. Courageous. Reliable.
These are words that coworkers and family members repeatedly
used to describe Petty Officer 2nd Class David "Jake" Flores,
the Coast Guardsman selected as the 2022 USO Service Member of
U.S. 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, accepts a certificate from Lorén Westerfield, executive director of USO Houston
& South Texas, during a ceremony in Houston, Texas
on December 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. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by PO1 Corinne Zilnicki.)
Flores’s shipmates offered up a
portrait of a hard working, dedicated team player, the kind of
man who lifts up everyone around him.
The kind of man who
would dive into a river to save a baby’s life.
On June 2,
2022 ... Flores and two of his teammates from Coast Guard
Maritime Safety & Security Team Houston were patrolling the Rio
Grande, squinting through early morning shadows for any signs of
moment along the banks. Then came the alert from U.S. Border
Patrol agents: a large group of non-citizens was trying to cross
the river up ahead.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarrett
Guerra, coxswain of the 29-foot Response Boat–Small, quickly
maneuvered around a bend in the river while Flores and Petty
Officer 3rd Class Corey Connolly sidled up to the bow,
flashlights in hand.
The chaotic image of an overturned
raft and people splashing frantically in the water rose to greet
them, instantly catapulting all three Coast Guardsmen into
rescue mode. Cognizant of the danger posed by the boat’s
propellers, Guerra killed the engines and hastily scanned his
surroundings. Two women thrashed in the water, struggling to
stay afloat. Drifting out of their grasp was a small baby,
floating facedown and sinking fast.
“Jake, Jake, the
baby!” Guerra shouted.
“I’m going in!” Flores hollered
back, almost simultaneously.
In a move later described
as “heroic” by his peers, Flores detached his law enforcement
gear, leaped off the boat and swam toward the submerged infant.
“He acted without any hesitation,” Guerra later recalled.
“He was completely selfless.”
“My training took over,”
explained Flores, father of a 3-year-old son and 5-year-old
daughter. “I pictured my own children and knew I couldn’t let
anything happen to that baby.”
With the 1 year old firmly
in his grasp, Flores propped the boy up on his neck and swam
back to the boat, kicking against the current. He passed the
lifeless infant up to Connolly, who immediately began CPR.
Guerra hoisted the two distraught women up into the boat and
helped his close friend and shipmate, Flores, clamber back on
After about three rounds of CPR, the baby stirred,
then drew breath. He was soaked to the bone and coughing up
water, but very much alive. Flores scooped the infant up and
held him closely, trying to soothe and warm him during the short
trip to the U.S. riverbank. Emergency medical services
technicians met them there and whisked the survivors to nearby
Mission Regional Medical Center for medical care. Much to their
relief, Flores and his teammates later received word that the
women and baby were all doing well.
When they learned of
Flores’s involvement in the dramatic search and rescue case,
many of his peers and supervisors said they were amazed, but not
“Acting that way is just a part of his
character,” said Chief Petty Officer Charles Havlik, Flores’s
direct supervisor at MSST Houston.
“Ten out of ten
times, I know he would do the same thing again,” Guerra
When her husband came home and told her about
rescuing the drowning baby on the Rio Grande, Vanessa Flores was
simultaneously filled with pride and concern for his well-being.
“He came home a little bit different,” she said. “I
think experiencing something like that made him appreciate the
little things more. You realize how precious life is after a
scary moment like that.”
As he stepped up to the
microphone and addressed his MSST Houston shipmates during the
USO Service Member of the Year ceremony on Dec. 1, Flores’s eyes
shone with emotion.
“I know this is an individual award,
but I feel it’s a team effort,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful
for this honor.”
Flores ascribing his success to his
teammates aligns with supervisor Lt. Joshua Moore’s glowing
assessment of the 35-year-old maritime enforcement specialist.
“He’s such a humble person that he will never really
admit how great he is,” said Moore. “Truth be told, he’s an
inspirational person and a strong leader.”
A native of
San Antonio, Texas, Flores joined the Coast Guard in 2012 with
the goal of saving lives.
His lifesaving actions on the
Rio Grande and his unfaltering commitment to helping others
prompted Flores’s supervisors to nominate him for USO Service
Member of the Year, an award that recognizes service members who
perform extraordinary acts of bravery and embody the values of
the Armed Forces and the USO.
Coast Guard Gifts
| U.S. Coast Guard
| U.S. Department
of Homeland Security
Honoring The Fallen |
Don't Weep For Me |
Remember The Fallen |
Tears For Your Fallen |
America's Best | America's Greatest
Heroes | Uncommon Valor
Our Valiant Troops |
I Am The One
Answering The Call
The U.S. Marines |
Citizens Like Us |
Vietnam War Veterans
Spouses Serve Too
We The People
Answering The Call |
One Nation Under God |
Love and Pride of USA
National Will |
God and Country |
America, My Home!