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Mercyhurst online student earns award for valor

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bryan Eisenberg, Sec. Ryan Zinke

The very term “distance learning” implies a degree of separation, a certain absence of familiarity, so it could easily have gone unnoticed among the college community that Bryan Eisenberg, a Mercyhurst University online student, received a gold medal for valor from U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this month.

But, in any Mercyhurst classroom, be it on-site or online, it’s hard to fly under the radar.

“We’re a closely-knit group,” said Linda Bremmer, who directs online graduate programs at Mercyhurst, through which Eisenberg, a native of Rochester, New York, is earning his Master of Science degree in Applied Intelligence. “I have never known someone who has been so steadfastly dedicated to achieving his goals as Bryan.”

During the July 4th celebration at the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington D.C., Secretary Zinke presented employee and civilian awards, including an award to Eisenberg for valor in a 2016 tragedy that made headlines around the nation.

According to the commendation:

“On February 2, 2016, a helicopter operated by a commercial pilot experienced engine difficulty and crashed into the waters adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center grounds in Hawaii. The helicopter was carrying a family of four and their pilot when it entered the water. All occupants were injured, one fatally. Nearby visitors and the National Park Service staff immediately responded to initiate rescue efforts. Ranger Eisenberg demonstrated exceptional courage and initiative as he quickly ran to the scene and without hesitation entered the water to assist the rescuers and provide aid to occupants of the helicopter. The pilot and three family members were recovered within the first few minutes of the crash. Ranger Eisenberg, without regard to the risks, entanglements and hazards of the unknown dive environment repeatedly dived through 20 feet of water to save the life of a trapped boy. On each dive, he worked to cut through the safety belt with a knife, surfacing when he was in need of air. Besides exhausting conditions, noxious fumes, tight working conditions and blinding chemicals leaking through the water, Ranger Eisenberg continued successive dives until he was able to cut through the tangled seat harness and deliver the boy to the surface.”

In speaking to honorees at the ceremony, Zinke said, “As a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, I have seen incredible acts of bravery and valor by our nation’s finest. Placing your own life on the line so that others may live takes incredible resolve and courage. Today’s recipients have demonstrated unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. We should all be thankful.”

Eisenberg, 29, said the honor came with mixed emotions. “It was really the efforts of a bunch of people working together in a highly stressful situation that led to the outcome of that day,” he said. “It was a great honor to go to D.C. and receive the agency’s highest honor. I truly loved working for the National Park Service in Hawaii – it is a chapter in my life that I will always cherish – something that wouldn’t have happened had I not enrolled in the Mercyhurst online program.”

Eisenberg credited Mercyhurst’s program with opening many doors for him. “I attribute much of my career success to being enrolled in the Mercyhurst online program for applied intelligence,” he said. “I got my first federal internship and security clearance with Diplomatic Security back in 2012 by participating in the U.S. Government’s Pathways Student Internship Program. From there things really started to get rolling. I then went to the academy for the National Park Service Law Enforcement. This was followed by an internship with the U.S. Marshal Service as well as another Pathways Internship as an investigative analyst for Diplomatic Security.”

Currently, Eisenberg is writing his thesis and completing training to be a special agent for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. State Department. “This job has been my career goal and I am very excited to have achieved it and to begin the journey as a special agent,” he said.