A former Unity resident has earned the Governor General’s Medal for Bravery.
Cole Marshall, son of Steve Marshall and Victoria Leibel, was born in 1986 and was a student at Unity Composite High Schoo. He, now lives in Medicine Hat, Alta. and accepted the award at a ceremony in Regina Oct. 20.
In June of 2016, Marshall never expected an ordinary day to turn into a rescue mission with him involved. There has never been boasting about the incident, as he says he did what anyone would have done in that situation. He just happened to be in that right place at the right time.
With his family, Marshall was fishing along the South Saskatchewan River near Medicine Hat. Up stream four boys were playing in the river while their mother tried to coax them out of the water, fearing they had drifted out too far. As they were coming in, one of the boys fell into a deep spot and was immediately swept up in the river’s current. Failed attempts by his brother to give aid only led to more panic.
Marshall saw the commotion and heard the cries for help so he quickly jumped into the river and started swimming out to rescue the boy. While much chaos ensued, adrenalin took over and Marshall was able to get the boy to cling to a tree branch and managed to get both himself and the boy to safety. Upon arrival of the Medicine Hat Fire Department aquatic team, Marshall says he and the child were exhausted and both were taken to hospital for evaluation.
Marshall describes the power of river’s current as incredible. While the rescue took 30 minutes, he said it felt like a lifetime to Marshall’s family and those watching helplessly from the shore.
The Medicine Hat News reported, “The fire chief said without Marshall’s intervention, it’s almost certain the boy would have drowned, as he recognized that Marshall did put his life in great peril during the rescue of this young man.”
Marshall received accolades from the City of Medicine Hat for his bravery and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award of Bravery.
Quickly downplaying his role in this rescue, Marshall is swift to add that he feels the heroes were the emergency services of Medicine Hat that perform these tasks every day and don’t always get the recognition Marshall was receiving.
Former UCHS teacher and Marshall’s football coach, Pat Orobko, said, “Marshall was a great team player, and he worked very hard and was very disciplined. He was always respectful and it is not surprising that Marshall would have earned this recognition. It is certainly fitting for the young man who played football for the Warriors.”
“I am very proud of what Marshall did to save that child, as well as saving his own life during that rescue,’ said his father Stephen Marshall.
“My son is very fit so, that likely aided in the success of the exhausting rescue. I am also glad he took swimming lessons as a kid.”
Marshall had open heart surgery as a child and was advised not to participate in any sports, however, he chose to continue living his life as normal as possible, understanding that fitness would contribute to his overall well-being.
Marshall says he enjoyed the awards weekend in Regina.
“[It was great] to meet the governor general (Julie Payette) and her take the time to talk privately with me and my family and my daughter.
The award was created in 1972 to recognize people who risk their lives and choose to defy their own instinct of survival to try to save a loved one or a perfect stranger whose life is in immediate danger. The medal of bravery recognizes acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.