From Wolverine to Marine to hero: Deer Valley High grad stationed at Camp Pendleton swims 250 meters, saves drowning couple

U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Dan Conley, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, presented a challenge coin to Cpl. Jordan Perez, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, at the 21 Area Boat Basin, Feb. 19, 2021. Conley commended Perez for saving a couple after their kayak flipped over in the basin. Perez swam nearly 250 meters to escort them safely back to the beach. (Snapshot of U.S. Marine Corps video by Sgt. Dylan Chagnon)

“That was really gutsy of you.” – U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Dan Conley, Camp Pendleton Commanding General

“It’s what Marines are expected to do.” – Cpl. Jordan Perez.

U.S. Marine Cpl. Jordan Perez, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, poses for a photo in the 21 Area of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 19, 2021. Perez was awarded a challenge coin for saving a couple after their kayak flipped over in the 21 Area Boat Basin. Perez is a native of Antioch, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

By Lance Cpl. Angela Wilcox

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton  

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A young Marine was recognized for actions taken on Feb. 15th, 2021, when he saved the lives of two civilian kayakers at the 21 Area Boat Basin.

Cpl. Jordan Perez, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, was present when a married couple was calling for help from the water. The boat basin, surrounded by large, sharp boulders, produced unforgiving waves that day that flipped their kayak. Through these waves, Perez estimated that he had to swim 250 meters to reach the kayakers and bring them to shore – a feat that may have proven impossible for some. Luckily for the couple, Perez was physically and mentally prepared due to the consistent and rigorous training of the Marine Corps.

According to Antioch Unified School District Superintendent, Stephanie Anello, the 6’1″ Perez is a 2018 graduate of Deer Valley High School, where he played varsity baseball as catcher and football as a safety and wide receiver for the Wolverines. The Antioch native was also a member of the Chess Club. His parents are Baltazar and Celestina Pérez of Antioch.

Perez received a challenge coin from U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Dan Conley, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, on Feb. 19th, 2021. Perez credits his military training with giving him the confidence to jump into action. (See video)

At around 1 p.m. on Feb. 15th, 2021, Perez was working on a construction project at the 21 Area Del Mar Boat Basin at Camp Pendleton, when another Marine witnessed a couple in the water that had been flipped from their kayak by a strong wave. The kayakers were struggling in the water and began calling for help.

Perez played catcher for the Deer Valley Wolverines during the 2018 season. Source: MaxPreps

“That’s when I took action,” said Perez. “I took my boots off and just started swimming.”

Once Perez arrived at the scene, he immediately “…grabbed the woman’s hand and pulled her back on the kayak and began pushing the boat back to the rocks,” said Perez. He mentioned that the woman’s husband was able to swim, but halfway to the shore he began to panic. Upon noticing the husband’s struggle, Perez swam back to where the man was, placed a life vest on him, and continued pushing the woman to safety.

For his actions, Perez was paid a visit by Conley and received a challenge coin at the worksite where the event occurred.

While Perez was not the only Marine to recognize the severity of the situation, he was particularly ready for this moment. Perez is currently training with a retired reconnaissance Marine in order to prepare for assessment and selection with the Marine Raiders. Achieving this goal includes swimming for about two hours every day.

Del Mar Boat Basin. Source: Mapcarta

Perez’s hard work paid off when it mattered most. “That [training] takes away any hesitation that comes with putting your own life at risk. Since I had been training, I was confident that I could get myself out there and get those people back.”

Conley had a conversation with Perez, commending him for his life saving actions. “I’d like to believe a lot of people would do what you did, but I know they wouldn’t. So, to hear it actually happen is just amazing. That was really gutsy of you.” said Conley.

What was extraordinary to Conley was the standard that Perez holds himself to. “It’s what Marines are expected to do.” said Perez.

Although the actions that Perez took were heroic, Perez contends that all Marines, given the opportunity, would do the same. “It’s what Marines are expected to do.” said Perez.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Jordan Perez MaxPreps


Del Mar Boat Basin Mapcarta


Cpl. Jordan Perez


Brig. Gen. Dan Conley congrats Cpl Jordan Perez


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