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Loyola senior honored for spring break heroics

Loyola senior honored for spring break heroics

Jackson Kozlowski, a member of the Indiana Army National Guard, received the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross for helping two friends who were injured in rough surf during a trip to Puerto Rico. “I was just thankful that I had been to the training that I had been to,” he said.

By Anna Gaynor

In September, a unit of the Indiana Army National Guard presented the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross to one of its own, Loyola senior Jackson Kozlowski.

The award isn’t something Kozlowski, an exercise science major, ever expected. He received the honor, which is given to members of the military who go “above and beyond the call of duty,” after stepping up in a tense situation during his spring break.

“I mean it’s cool, but when I came back, I wasn’t looking for an award or looking to have something given to me,” said Kozlowski, a private-first class. “When I received it, all I could really think about was, I don’t really need this. I’m fine with just having everybody come back and be safe.”

At the beginning of March, Kozlowski and four friends from Loyola made the trip to Puerto Rico for sightseeing and a little beach time. The day after they arrived, the group drove to a remote beach near San Juan. To get there, the five had to walk through some dense trees and scale down rocks.

Unbeknownst to them, that beach was prone to dangerous, irregular waves and had already been the site of several serious injuries. After about an hour, three large waves suddenly hit the beach. While Kozlowski and two of his friends were still on the sand—two others, Thomas Arnieri and Allysa McGann—had ventured out about 50 feet into the water. The waves knocked both of them off balance and slammed them into the submerged rocky reef.

“I saw her first,” Kozlowski said. “She popped up, and I could tell something was wrong just from her face. It didn’t look right.”

After he pulled McGann ashore, he saw that she had suffered a large gash on her shoulder and hip.

“It was just like a trigger went off in my head,” Kozlowski said. “This is not spring break anymore. This is time to take care of things and fix it.”

His other friend, Arnieri, was able to make it to shore himself but had suffered a large cut on his calf as well as three fractured vertebrae. Kozlowski used towels and clothing to apply pressure to the victims’ wounds, which weren’t immediately life threatening. He then directed the others to call an ambulance and to help keep the two awake and alert.

“I was just thankful that I had been to the training that I had been to,” Kozlowski said. “I’d just come back from basic training. I’d been trained as a combat medic. It was really fortunate that I knew what to do and could do the right thing. It’s good timing, I’ll say that.”

Both required surgery, and the three who weren’t injured cut the trip short as well. After getting back from Puerto Rico, Kozlowski was encouraged by his father, a colonel in the Indiana National Guard, to submit a narrative to the Army about the incident. A few months later, he was told to he’d be receiving the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross.

But for Kozlowski, he’s just happy he was able to be there for his friends.

“I would’ve thought that in the situation where someone needs help anyone would’ve been there to help them,” Kozlowski said. “It just so happens that I was there for these people and fortunate enough to have been trained by the military to do it. That doesn’t mean that someone who isn’t trained could not have done it. I was just fortunate enough to be there at the right time.”