Don Kluting and Coast Gaurd Capt. Shannon Greene of Juneau. Greene gave Kluting a meritorious public service award outside the Fire Hall on Friday. (Brielle Schaeffer/KCAW photo)

During almost three decades of volunteering with Sitka Mountain Rescue, Don Kluting saved 15 lives while assisting the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Department of Homeland Security recognized his efforts last week. Kluting received a meritorious public service award from Coast Guard Capt. Shannon Greene, of Juneau. She came to Sitka to personally deliver the medal in a brief ceremony outside the fire hall on Friday. Kluting assisted 21 people and saved $845,000 worth of property, Greene said.

“His tenacious and selfless efforts absolutely enhanced the Coast Guard’s ability and effectiveness to respond to the needs of the citizens within Southeast Alaska,” she said.

Kluting was notably involved in the 2014 rescue effort of the grounded fishing vessel Mirage, Greene said. He also hoisted critically injured passengers from the vessel Atlantis in 2013, which had struck a rock. In 2012, he provided vital support during the search for an overdue troller.

The honor is the Coast Guard’s second-highest civilian service award. It recognizes courage and individual accomplishments.

Kluting didn’t anticipate the award and he couldn’t have done it alone, he said.

“It has been a team effort for so many years,” Kluting said. “It is quite an honor to be here today. I am speechless.”

Kluting resigned as director of Sitka Mountain Rescue last year, after the city decided to combine the organization with the Fire Department. He continues to work as the building manager of Harrigan Centennial Hall.