JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two Mayport sailors who ran into danger in Times Square last month to save pedestrians run over by a man who said he wanted police to kill him were awarded the Governor's Medal of Merit on Wednesday in Jacksonville.
Airman David Barba, a sailor from Salinas, California, and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate-Fuels 3rd Class Andrew Miller, from Dallas, were in front of a Walgreens at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue in New York when police say Richard Rojas careened his car into a group of pedestrians on May 19, killing 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman and injuring 22 others, including Elsman’s 13-year-old sister, Ava.
The sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, homeported in Mayport, were shopping on leave in New York and said they ran through traffic without hesitation and helped three of the injured victims, including Ava.
“It was more fiction at first, but it quickly turned into a sudden realization this could be really bad,” Barba said.
Gov. Rick Scott, who once also served in the U.S. Navy, came to the USS Iwo Jima at Mayport to honor their heroism in person.
“Individuals that enlist in the Navy and other branches of the military ... all of our freedoms are because we have individuals like this,” Scott said.
Scott has handed out fewer than 10 of the medals while in office.
“I'm very honored. I'm very proud. I'm very grateful,” Miller said.