September 22, 2015 - Last Wednesday I departed Gold Hill at dawn, heading for Pensacola, Florida via US-29 through South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The round trip totaled over 1,500 miles, often riding miles without seeing another car, truck, or motorcycle. It's amazing that our US Routes are so under utilized when there is an Interstate Highway nearby that parallels the route.
Although I was able to document over three dozen memorials during the six day trip, those stops were not the ultimate objective. For over a year I have been organizing a reunion of my shipmates from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SEBAGO. The 255' High Endurance Cutter was built in 1945 and served 27 years, sailing mostly from it's home ports of Mobile and Pensacola. SEBAGO steamed many thousands of miles on Campeche Patrols in the Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Station assignments in the North Atlantic, and in 1969 spent a full year assigned to Coast Guard Squadron Three - off the coast of Vietnam.
Gathering several dozen old Coasties isn't easy, especially when some of the men are well into their 90's. Few of us still work, and many are battling health issues and mobility problems associated with advancing age. But, we did manage to get everybody down to the pier and dedicate the marker with speeches from the Commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District and Rep Jeff Miller (R) of the 1st District of Florida. A moment was taken to remember our shipmates that have "crossed the bar" and, of course, everybody stood for photos, handshakes, and tearful embraces as some left the area.
This isn't the first time I've helped organize something of this nature, although it's the first time the reason for gathering was an historical marker. Usually it's a veterans memorial of some sort. Regardless of the physical object, the goal is the same - to honor and remember veterans and their families for the sacrifices they made to serve the republic. To that end, this ceremony was no different from the others. But for me it WAS far different. I lived aboard that ship for 16 months, living in close quarters with 142 other men. As I called for the audience to pause and remember our deceased shipmates it was difficult to carry on with my remarks as emotion nearly overwhelmed me.
Collectively, we shipmates placed that marker to ensure that our children and grandchildren would be able to visit that spot in the years after we are gone and recall the stories we told about our ship and our friends that sailed with us. It's bittersweet to know that decades from now the marker we erected might bring a smile to a young face - but that we will not be there to share in the moment. All veterans monuments are like that. They prompt the next generation to envision we that have gone before them - and the monuments silently entreat the visitors to live up to the ideals we fought to protect.
Click HERE to see a video of Rear Admiral David Callahan speaking to the group.
"Semper Paratus is our guide, our fame, our glory too!"