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Sailors honored for saving children during tornado

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SAN DIEGO– We’ve heard of several stories of survival when an EF5 tornado hit the center of Moore less than a month ago.

We’ve also heard of the heroics.

Two sailors who were visiting family and friends were caught in the middle of the storm and what they did during those precious moments has earned them honors at a naval base.

When the sirens began to sound, Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Sean Kelley found shelter with his family.

Kelley’s mother soon received a text message from a friend, saying she was stuck in her house and could not make it to the shelter alone.

Kelley and his father climbed out of the shelter, ran down the street and found the woman and her three small children.

The pair grabbed the infants and toddler and quickly ran to the storm shelter.

The group soon heard about the destruction at Plaza Towers Elementary and Briarwood Elementary.

Kelley, his father and Cryptologic Technician Collection 3rd Class Arturo Guerra sprung into action and headed toward the devastation.

The group were among the first to respond to Plaza Towers and began digging through the rubble for survivors.

“The elementary school was completely leveled,” Guerra said. “The rubble and destruction that I saw firsthand,  I have no words to describe it. The four kids that were there, as I handed them off to the next person in line, I choked up.”

The sailors are credited with rescuing four children and their teacher, three injured personnel and assisted a dozen families in the process.

“I have never been in, let alone trained for, chaos of this magnitude,” Kelley said. “You had to do as much as you could while you were there.”

After helping set up a triage for the injured, Guerra and Kelley helped search hundreds of nearby houses for others.

They found the remains of eight victims.

“Their actions are exactly what we expect from anyone wearing the uniform of a United States Sailor,” said U.S.S. Cowpens executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Aujero. “Petty officers Guerra and Kelley are living proof of honor, courage and commitment. We here on Cowpens couldn’t be prouder.”

The two sailors will be honored for their life-saving efforts in a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on Wednesday.