Oct. 30, 2012
Yew people gonna feel proud whenevah yew hear that tune, said Boatswain Mate Chief Clarence Ward Hollowell in his deep Southern drawl on the day we graduated from Coast Guard boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey, more than four decades ago. He was referring to the Semper Paratus March, the official of our doughty little service.
We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be,
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our fame, our glory, too.
To fight to save or fight and die!
Aye! Coast Guard, we are for you.
The words of that song have never rung truer. This week, Hurricane Sandy made landfall just a few miles north of Cape May. And the Coast Guard proved always ready once again to plow through the storm to save lives.
The Washington Post covered the amazing story of the rescue of the crew of the HMS Bounty. They had been forced to abandon ship. Millions of movie goers around the world would have seen this magnificent replica of an 18th century British man-of-war. This tall ship was featured in the films Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and more recently, in the Johnny Depp hit, Pirates of the Caribbean.
This beautiful tall ship was lost in the storm and her crew in danger of their lives.
One woman crew member were tragically lost, and the captain is feared lost, but the rest of the 16-member Bounty crew were saved because of the courage and skill of the Coast Guard. Helo pilot Steve Bonn carefully put his aircraft near the lifeboat as he lowered 27-year old rescue swimmer, Dan Todd down the hoist with the basket. Todds almost casual line as he tumbled into the boat was classic: Need a lift?
A lift is what those survivors certainly got. And a story like this lifts all our spirits. Thank you, Washington Post, for a great job of reporting on this one. Its worth watching the video to see Petty Officer Todd being lowered into those churning seas. He risked his life to save others, living proof of the Coast Guards unofficial motto: You gotta go out...
I participated in a few Coast Guard rescues, myself, but nothing on this momentous scale. This harrowing adventure one reminds me of my friend, Pat Rivas. Lt. Rivas was the first evangelical Christian Id ever met. He saw I was struggling to make it through the OCS physical test, so he came alongside and coached and encouraged me all the way to the best condition of my life. He never mentioned his faith in Jesus, but it there was something truly extraordinary in the selfless way he helped me, and others, in our class. Only after Pat and his crewmen lost their lives in 1981 trying to save the captain of a small fishing boat in a terrific storm in the Gulf of Alaska did I learn of his deep faith.
Some years ago, the Coast Guard announced it had saved one million human lives since its founding in 1790. They have lived up to Thomas Jeffersons ideal: The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. Now, the Coast Guard can add another fourteen lives to that great number. Thanks, Coast Guard, for being always ready for the call (and for placing your trust in THEE).
Here, from one of my retired Coastie friends, are some interesting online resources: