USS Winston S. Churchill, At Sea (NNS) -- President Barack Obama surprised one exceptional Sailor aboard guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) with a Thanksgiving Day phone call.
President Obama called Ship Serviceman Seaman Tabatha Figueroa to thank her for her role in Winston S. Churchill's rescue of 62 stranded mariners in the Gulf of Aden Sept. 26.
"You are doing wonderful things," Obama said. "I heard what you did on the day of the rescue at sea and I am very proud of you."
Figueroa was recommended to receive the President's phone call by U.S. 5th Fleet Force Master Chief Charles Clarke after she received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for helping to resuscitate one of the mariners who had fallen in the water after their distressed vessel capsized.
"When it looked as if all hope was gone, Seaman Figueroa refused to quit [CPR]," said Churchill Command Master Chief James Reckhouse. "Because of her actions, the young man's life was saved."
The President spoke with the Torrance, Ca. Sailor for a few minutes, thanking her for her service and for being away from her family on Thanksgiving.
The President also passed along a "Happy Thanksgiving" to Figueroa's mother, brother and her fellow crew members aboard Winston S. Churchill.
"When I was younger and my dad passed away, my mother told me that God had amazing experiences in store for me but I never thought that speaking to the President would be one of them," Figueroa said. "He took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to an E-3, which is phenomenal, especially on Thanksgiving. It meant the world to me and I am very grateful that I was chosen to receive the phone call."
The phone call from the President was another highlight in a successful deployment for Winston S. Churchill which has conducted counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, provided escort duties to U.S. and coalition vessels operating in the region, and conducted maritime security operations in the North Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf.
"It was an unbelievable experience! I could not be any prouder than I am to have Seaman Figueroa represent our crew as she spoke to the President," said Cmdr. Juan Orozco, Commanding Officer of Winston S. Churchill. "It is fantastic to see such a great young Sailor be recognized by President Obama."
Winston S. Churchill is currently on a routine scheduled deployment as a part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.