Are We Crazy?

By Pat Varallo


You have to be nuts to be in the Coast Guard. Think about it . . . the kind of duty we do and did will drive you nuts, if you aren’t there already.

Loran stations: God-forsaken places where the animals look at you funny. There usually are no trees, and it is either freezing ten months out of the year or so windy and hot that only gooney birds land there. I remember a fellow who came aboard the DUANE who stayed to himself all the time and had a vacant stare fixed in his eyes. He had just come back from 18 months loran station duty.  

Lightships: Did you ever hear of Nantucket Lightship? I probably needn’t say more, but in case you haven’t, there aren’t any. But how does this grab you—four or five weeks out and two in? You chip paint and the damned hull ends up with holes where you think there was a rivet. Lightships gave “rust bucket” a whole new name—it should have been boring bucket. I saw some crazy stuff on the Cross Rip Lightship. There was a fellow who tried to swim ashore from The Handkerchief Lightship six miles! Man, did he ever need a liberty. And how about the roaches? One fellow almost drank one in his coffee. He spit it out onto the deck after he sipped his coffee.

Rescue swimmers: You have really got to be a crazy b_st_rd to jump out of a hovering chopper into a raging sea and rescue an arrogant SOB who was either too lazy or ignored a storm warning. I know one of these brave men, and believe me, he is as nuts as his hair is red.

Chopper pilots and crew: I can’t imagine taking that thing out in a storm to begin with. But to hover and keep it steady while the swimmer is doing his thing? He has to either have nerves of steel or . . . need I say it?

Weather patrol: After a week of dodging icebergs and a “great liberty” in Argentia, you get to drift around and roll and roll and roll, ad infinitum, on an ocean station, and hope that a plane doesn’t have to ditch. But that’s what we’re here for. Oh, my, did you ever wonder why Cutter men went ape when they got liberty?

Lifeboat stations: Recently I saw a documentary on PBS which showed the lifeboat men training for rescue. If the training is that violent, tell me, would you really want to go out on a real rescue? Picture yourself in a 360 degree roll. 54 degrees on Ocean Station Baker was enough for me!

Landing craft crewmen: Wave after wave of Marines or soldiers were brought to the beach by Coasties during WWII. The coxswain shouts to his cargo, “Keep your heads, down, ya want ’em shot off?” No fox hole for him, He has to see where he is going to land and he has to do this over and over again. One such Coast Guardsman won the Medal of Honor at the cost of his life. The Marines he saved honor him every year at their reunion.  

Well, you get the idea. I want everyone to know that I am proud to be one those nuts.


Pat - You Forgot Isolated Lighthouses that often had 18 year old kids assigned to them. At that age the testestrone flowed like buttermilk. Talk about going nuts! - Jack

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