By Pat Varallo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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!
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.
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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