“I think God definitely put me there for a reason”

By SFC Michael A. Simmons | 110th Public Affairs Detachmemt | April 12, 2019

Staff Sergeant Nathaniel J. Schaffer, a Soldier with the Rhode Island Army National Guard, 88th Army Band and Patrolman with the Jamestown RI Police Department is being praised for risking his life to save a man drowning in Narragansett Bay. 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund named Officer Nathaniel Schaffer the recipient of the Officer of the Month Award for December 2018. Schaffer, along with the other Officer of the Month Award recipients for 2018, were honored at a special awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Schaffer said that he has always been interested in a life of service to the community.

“In high school I wanted to be an Army Ranger. I wanted to serve my country.” 

While in his high school band class, Schaffer learned that he could serve his country AND play his instrument in the Rhode Island Army National Guard. 

Schaffer, a tenor saxophone player with the 88th Army Band said, “I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the Army.”

“Since it is the Guard, I needed to find a full-time career.”  

Schaffer said that his interest in serving the community segued easily into a career in law enforcement.

Schaffer has been in the 88th Army Band nearly seven years, and an Officer with the Jamestown Police Department for slightly over one year.

Schaffer was working an extra patrol shift on Dec. 6, 2018 when a call came in around 1 a.m. regarding a man who had jumped into Narragansett Bay and was unable to get out. 

Arriving first on the scene, Schaffer, who was soon joined by another officer, tried unsuccessfully to convince the man to swim to a nearby ladder. The man also was unable to grab a flotation device that Schaffer threw to him, and soon after the man became unresponsive, requiring the officers to act quickly.

As the other officer went to retrieve another flotation device, Schaffer removed this shoes, jacket and vest before diving into the water. He was able to grab the man, but realized he would not be able to lift him up a 6-foot ledge to waiting responders.

Schaffer then swam 100 feet to a nearby dock,with the semi-conscious man, where the responders from the Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue were able to meet him. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment for hypothermia. 

"I thank God for the opportunity, first of all, that I was able to be there at that time and place when we needed to jump in the water. That wasn't even my scheduled shift. I had worked an earlier shift that evening and one of our officers had to call out sick, so I picked up that overtime shift. A couple hours in we got the call. I think God definitely put me there for a reason." Schaffer said.