Commentary: Ben: selfless hero

Newport Beach and the local community lost a true hero July 6 when Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson courageously entered the challenging and turbulent waters to save a swimmer in distress.

Ben’s actions saved yet another life, adding to the storied career of this young waterman. The uncommon bravery he demonstrated is testament to the collective efforts of those who protect us in the open waters off Newport Beach. Tragically, Ben made the ultimate sacrifice during what was to be his final rescue.

Ben was experienced and skilled, having worked for Newport Beach as an ocean lifeguard for the last 15 years. His commitment to duty and fearlessness in the face of sometimes dangerous waters, whether at the infamous Wedge, in the surf near 18th Street or by the rocky shores off Little Corona, have helped to save untold lives throughout his celebrated, albeit abruptly shortened career.

Ben was the nameless, faceless soldier of water safety guarding residents and visitors in a community that didn’t fully realize how much it needed him. His work, whether standing watch at a tower, patrolling the beach in a Jeep or serving as a deckhand on a rescue boat, was performed quickly and quietly many times over on days when the water was angry, as it was July 6. This time Ben got his rescue, but the ocean took Ben.

In a world where the truth has become more of a commodity, and person-to-person communication has all too often been replaced by an electronic interface, lifeguards risk life and limb while wearing little more protection than sun block.

Lifeguard Ben Carlson’s actions July 6, jumping into action to aid a stranger, serves to illustrate the unwavering commitment to duty of this hero of the harbor in a final selfless epilogue.

What a fine man he was.

PAUL MATHEIS lives in Irvine.