I used to be in the military. I spent most of my 20’s in it, almost 7 1/2 years to be exact. So you would think that when a holiday such as Memorial Day rolls around I would be able to come up with a post that tugs at your heart-strings and make you want to rush out and hug a solder/sailor. Truth be told, I’m at a total loss. I have no idea what to say to overwhelm you with those emotions.
I think it has to do with the fact that I was in the Coast Guard
the hippy branch and didn’t see any combat what-so-ever. Most Coasties don’t either. I remember all through my Coast Guard career learning/talking about Douglas Munro and all he stood for. There is a Coast Guard Cutter , recruit training barracks in Cape May, NJ , and a hall at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT all named after this amazing WWII hero.
And then in 2004 the Coast Guard was shocked with the news that one of our brothers was once again killed in action. His name was Nathan Bruckenthal . This hit close to home for us. Even though I never had the honor to serve with DC3 Bruckenthal I knew people who had and had the pleasure of listening to their stories about being stationed with him. As a Company Commander (the CG’s version of a drill instructor) I used his story to motivate and educate my recruits.
There have been other casualties of war in the Coast Guard, LTJG Brostom, EN2 Phillips, LT Ritticher, FN Hernandez, ENC Beeson, EN1 Painter, and LTJG Kirkpatrick all gave their lives in the name of freedom in Vietnam.
I thank these men for their service and their selfless acts during a time of war. They did what the Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy are recognized for every day. I know that many of you are thinking to yourself, “Yeah, but you’ve only mentioned 9 people in a little over 62 years. The other services have lost a substantial amount more.” And you’re right, they have. I’m not trying to down play that at all. I’m sure there are a few service members that I have run across during my time in service that passed since the time that we were friendly. I lost contact with many of them and may never know if they have survived the war we’re in. But I thank them for their service and their sacrifice.
But I’m going to put the Coast Guard in perspective for you. The New York City Police Department has just of 34,000 officers. The Coast Guard defends all of the American shores, including inland waterways, the Great Lakes, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands. On top of all that they are also a growing force in the Mid East with the recent addition of their Deployable Special Forces: D.O.G. (Deployable Operations group). They’re a small knit group where there often doesn’t even seem to be enough people for 3 degrees of separation let alone 6. When just one falls everyone feels it as if it were a close relative.
The Coast Guard casualties of war don’t even come close to the men and women who have died doing their daily duty to keep you, the American public, safe at home. Be it chasing drug runners, upholding maritime law, or rescuing a man over board, the Coast Guard has put their life on the line even during times of peace. They are a premier maritime force with 11 missions . They are a humble group who silently keep your waterways safe.
So the next time you run into a Coast Guard member/veteran remember to say “Thank You.” Or the next time you drive by Arlington National Cemetery , remember that there are some Coast Guard hero’s resting among the soldiers. Thank you to all my fellow Coast Guard members past, present, and future. Thank you to those who gave their lives in the time of war, but also to those who died selfishly in times of peace protecting the American public at home.
Happy Memorial Day.