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JROTC: Fast-acting Cadet saves life

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Iyeida Bernal

Iyeida Bernal

by Furman “Neil” Neeley
U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A beloved southern California Army JROTC student is a hero, credited with saving the life of a drowning two-year-old boy on Easter Sunday. She was honored with a heroism award this week, signed by 8th Brigade commander Col. Paul Wood.

Iyeida Bernal, a Cadet at Arroyo Valley High School, was at an Easter picnic with her family at an Orange County lake when she saw a little boy on a dock feeding ducks. Suddenly, she said, the boy fell, disappearing into the water with a splash.

When the boy didn’t surface, Bernal realized that she was the only person to see the incident. Disregarding her own safety and her allergies to the grass and seaweed present in the lake, she quickly dove in to rescue the boy.

“I ran to the dock where he had fallen and I jumped in and began to look for him,” she said. “I didn’t see him at first because the water was so murky and brown and there was a lot of seaweed at the bottom of the lake covering the boy.

Bernal says that she didn’t think about her allergies to grass and seaweed. “All I cared about was finding him,” she said. “I remembered that he was wearing an orange shirt.”

Although her eyes were already beginning to swell shut because of her allergies, somehow Bernal managed to keep them open long enough to spot the boy’s orange shirt on the bottom amongst the seaweed.

“I grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him to shore,” Bernal said. “By then, I was a bit nervous and scared but I administered CPR until he coughed up the water. He began crying and lots of people gathered around. His mom took him away but I couldn’t see much because of my swollen eyes.”

Not only were Bernal’s eyes swollen, she also had rashes all over her body due to a severe allergic reaction to the seaweed in the lake. She had to seek medical attention and spent most of the afternoon at a local hospital.

Still, Bernal says her ordeal was worth it. “I was so scared during the rescue but I was also kind of proud that even though I saw my brother pass away a few years ago, I got to save somebody else’s life.”

Arroyo ROTC’s first sergeant, Wayne Howard, has known Bernal for the past three years. He says that she is more mature for her age than the average high school senior.

“She has had more responsibility thrown upon her than most seniors have due to some difficult circumstances surrounding her family and home life,” said Howard. She lost a brother to a tragic automobile accident in front of our school a few years ago, and her mother is both a cancer survivor and a single parent. Her brother left children behind and Bernal and her mother are taking care of them.”

Howard says that Bernal is one of the cadets that he is able to depend on when he needs a student to get a job done right every time.

“She’s one of those students that you hate to see graduate, but you’re so proud to see go on,” he said.

Retired Maj. Rick Williams is the Senior Army Instructor at Arroyo Valley. He says that Bernal has a mothering streak.

“She plans to attend California State University at San Bernardino after graduation from high school,” Williams said. “She hopes to eventually become a pediatrician. It’s remarkable that she has as her goal in life a desire to help out kids. In this instance, she has done just that.

Howard speaks highly of Bernal’s character.

“Everyone who comes in contact with her loves her,” he said. “She is everybody’s sister or friend. That’s true not only true with the JROTC Cadets, but also with everyone here on campus. She’s a bright, intelligent people-person who loves the outdoors.  She loves JROTC and is active in her church”

Bernal is a fourth-year JROTC Cadet at Arroyo Valley and serves as the battalion adjutant. She holds the rank of Cadet captain.


Written by CadetCommandPAO

May 1, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Posted in News

Tagged with , ,

4 Responses

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  1. We are proud of you, Iyeida! Way to be above all the rest!

    Michael Bennie

    May 13, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  2. We are proud,Iyeida…
    may god bless you with many blessing through out your life…love gracey

    gracey lutui

    May 22, 2009 at 5:43 am

  3. Cadet Bernal, I salute you in a standard above standards. Pray all goes well in the future for your success in life. God Bless You Cadet.

    SFC (Ret) Williams Ronald

    June 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm

  4. Iyeida Well Done Ill Never Forget The Day I Saw You Go Up To Recieve Your Award At The Assembly I Will Always Pray For You After All Your Like My Litle Sister God Bless You!

    USMC PFC Hernandez Miguel A.

    February 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

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