Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jenna Underwood-Nunez, a 6-year veteran of the Department, was the only California State Public Officer to receive the prestigious Medal of Valor last week from Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric H. Holder.
The ceremony was held Wednesday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“I am humbled and honored to receive such monumental recognition while amongst such other brave and dedicated police and fire public servants,” stated Deputy Underwood-Nunez told Sheriff’s Information Bureau (SIB) by phone this morning shortly after the ceremony.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor is the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer. The medal is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life. Deputy Nunez-Underwood is now among an esteemed group of 95 recipients who have received this award since its inception in 2003.
“I am extremely proud of Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez. Every day our deputies risk their lives in the interests of public safety. I consider her selfless and swift action to save a life as nothing less than heroic. She is a solid example of the dedication and superior quality found within our members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” said Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell with Deputy Underwood-Nunez about a month ago when he surprised her with the news of her award.
On April 27, 2013, Deputy Underwood-Nunez, assigned to the Century Regional Detention Facility was 5 ½ months pregnant and off-duty dining with her family at the Silverwood Lake campgrounds, in San Bernardino County California, when she heard a distress call coming from the lake area.
Deputy Underwood-Nunez looked toward the water and saw splashing approximately 100 yards from shore, and determined that someone was drowning. Without hesitation and placing herself and her unborn child at potential risk, Deputy Underwood-Nunez immediately ran toward the drowning victim to provide assistance.
Fully clothed, Deputy Underwood swam toward the drowning victim only to find that the individual screaming for help was the brother of the drowning victim. The true victim was already fully submerged in approximately 15 feet of water at the bottom of the lake.
Deputy Underwood-Nunez immediately dove to the bottom of the lake to search for the victim. Once located, she pulled the victim to shore and initiated emergency life saving measures to restore breathing.
After administering several cycles of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), the victim regained consciousness and he was subsequently airlifted to a local hospital and placed in stable condition.
Thanks to the heroic actions of Deputy Underwood-Nunez, the 17-year old high school student made a complete recovery and keeps in contact with her.
Deputy Underwood-Nunez (center) with her husband Fidel Nunez, a Realto police officer, and Capt. Maria Gutierrez of the Sheriff’s Century Regional Detention Facility.