The Chicago Bash

By Jack A. Eckert

 

 

I took a brief survey to determine if this article  was any good or not. Of the people who commented, most agreed it was interesting but as one person indicated, "disrespectful."  That person may be right. That was never the intent of the article. Originally it was to be a straight chronology of events. Instead I put down what my thoughts and observations were before, during and after the ceremony. I read them through a day later and decided to let the article stand. - Jack

 

 

I got an invitation in the mail awhile ago to attend a combination change of command and retirement ceremony at Navy Pier in Chicago. In the mix was a reception that was scheduled to be held on one of my old homes, the Cutter Mackinaw. I think the invitation was arranged by Larry Stefanovich, President of the Coast Guard Sea Veterans, but I am not sure of that. In all of the 28 years that I have lived in Wisconsin since my retirement from the Coast Guard, this was the first official Coast Guard invitation of any sort that I have received. I was sure that it wasn’t just because they wanted some broken down, “Old Guard,” mustang type, Lieutenant Commander to attend because they remembered I was once one of them.

On the day of the ceremony I got up at 4:00 a.m., did the 5-S routine, left my house in Port Washington, Wisconsin and drove South to meet with Larry Stefanovich near Kenosha at the Illinois border. I expected Larry at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant at 6:15. After three cups of coffee I ordered a breakfast which came at 7:10. I figured if Larry didn’t show by 7:30 I was returning home. Larry walked in at 7:25.

We got on the road just before 8:00 figuring that we would get there with a half an hour to an hour to spare. Plenty of time to get acclimated and situated. As we were aiming up the freeway ramp Larry was describing how he got lost trying to meet up with me. My mind was boggled as he lived only a few miles from the meeting place.

I had Chicago radio station WBBM on to hear the traffic report. "Oh-Oh, trouble on the Kennedy" so I turned off on Highway 41 and went south past Great Lakes and Old Fort Sheridan. Larry volunteered to navigate as Chicago can be tricky to get through. I should have known if he had problems finding a local restaurant just off the freeway, he would have trouble following the signs, twists and turns of Highways 41 and 14 ambling through the city with a stop and go light every other block and obscure signage. To shorten a long sad tale, suffice it to say, we arrived where we were supposed to be at 9:56.

By this time I was a basket case.

There was the “Red Harlot of the Lakes, nee, Great White Mother,” in all her red glory. I expected to see the word “RELIEF” in big letters written in white across her hull. I was a former crewman on the GWM some 48 years ago and always considered her somewhat holy.

The ceremony was being held on the roof of the long Navy Pier Building, three stories above the ship. A temporary canvas dome cover had been rigged to accommodate the several hundred guests at the function. The Great Lakes Navy Band was present and provided excellent music when called upon.

It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit windy but that is to be expected in Chicago. Rain showers were in the area but none rained upon the ceremony.

There was enough gold in the officer’s stripes, if melted down into ingots, to have financed the Iraqi War. Not to be outdone, the silver insignia on the Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel present under the same conditions would probably equal the daily take of Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas. There were at least three admirals and an Army general present in addition to a bevy of four stripers, three stripers, junior officers and warrant officers. Seated in the audience were a large pride of auxiliary officers and one elderly retired reserve commander wearing the old Navy Blue Coast Guard uniform. There were be several Merchant Ship officers (I think.) There was a gaggle of Chicago politicians present and I should say nothing more of them. Outside of the covered area, the personnel of the Chicago Marine Safety Office stood in formation for the duration of the entire two-hour ceremony. The audience itself was quite a sight to behold.

The Official Party was in front of the audience in full dress whites with swords. It seemed the each person in the party wearing whites had more medals on then General MacArthur. Most of their medals and ribbons I did not recognize. I did recognize the ribbons worn by the elderly retired commander on his old uniform. 

There were several TV station cameras grinding away throughout the ceremony. I was sitting on an end seat, a wooden folding chair, and hemmed in my right by a TV camera tripod. Guests to my left spread out to the extent that I had but a half a left cheek on the chair at any given time. If I would have pulled over my chair to the right I would have knocked over the tripod. (Reminded me of attending a Packer game at Lambeau and sitting on the end of a bench seat.) 

 


Everybody played their role. The lady commander who is the Executive Officer of the Chicago MSO was the Master of Ceremonies. The color guard consisted of four enlisted petty officers who stood at rigid attention once the colors were presented. To me they were the real stars as they had to stare straight ahead at the audience. Even in my best days I don’t believe I could stand at attention, eyes ahead for any two hours.

Admiral Silva’s remarks were interesting to say the least. I thought he looked pretty young for an admiral and I told him so later. He was commissioned in 1971, four years before I retired and was born in 1949, the year after I joined the Coast Guard. No wonder he looked young. He is a good speaker.

Admiral Crea was equally interesting but from a different standpoint. She is the first lady Coast Guard admiral I ever saw. As she was speaking, the thought ran through my mind that there were no female regular officers senior to me when I retired. They had just begun to enter the Coast Guard when I was on my way out the door. She and her contingent flew into Chicago from Boston for the ceremony.

Change of Commands go on all of the time. This is the description provided by the official program.  


CHANGE OF COMMAND

The Change of Command is a time-honored tradition, which formally restates the continuity of command of a Coast Guard unit. Deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history, this ritual is unique to the Armed Forces and publicly underscores the distinctive nature of command. The event ensures all personnel know of the change in leadership, and that a duly authorized officer is placed in charge. It signifies the total transfer of responsibility, authority, and accountability for the command, while marking the end of a segment of the unit's history; while signaling a new beginning - a new opportunity for even greater achievement in the future.

The Change of Command culminates when the crew is called to attention and orders are read. Both Captains read their orders aloud, and then the two face one-another, salute, and verbally carry out the relief. The perspective Commanding Officer initiates the relief, stating "Sir, I  relieve you," to which the departing Commanding Officer replies, "I stand relieved." The transfer of command is then complete.


In general they are starchy affairs that the crew usually dislikes. In my day, liberty was usually granted after the ceremony and that made up for a lot. For the chiefs it was trying to get their “ice-cream suits” assembled. The junior officers scurried about trying to locate ceremonial swords they could borrow. My own sword was worn by others at least ten times for every time I ever had to wear it. For whatever reason, Changes of Command usually occurred in the Summer and in whites. I don’t believe I ever wore dress blues to one.

So what was the big deal about this particular change of command?

Again from the Official Program:


RETIREMENT CEREMONY

Captain Raymond Seebald, Commander Edward Seebald, and Petty Officer Theresa Seebald are a small part of a proud tradition upheld by the Seebald family. Since 1973, eight members of the Seebald family have proudly served in the United States Coast Guard. Today we honor Captain Raymond E. Seebald, Commander Edward P. Seebald, and Petty Officer Theresa M. Seebald with a ceremony celebrating their retirement from Active Duty, and thanking them for a combined 59 years of faithful service to the United States Coast Guard.


This is what made this particular retirement ceremony an event.

Admiral Silva kept alluding to the famous Seebald Family. I never even heard the name before. There have been many famous families who have served in the Coast Guard; the Beal's from Maine, The Midget's from North Carolina, But Seebald?  It then dawned on me, I was attending the retirement of three people who weren’t even in the Coast Guard when I retired from it. Talk about “Old Guard” and “New Guard” It was hard for me to accept the fact that over 28 years had passed since my own retirement ceremony was held at YBI and a whole generation of Coasties has come and gone since. This was the second thought for the day that boggled my mind. Only the sight of the elderly retired Coast Guard commander and his very dignified lady kept me in perspective.

He wore his old uniform smartly and proudly. I thought to myself that that was my uniform twenty nine years ago. I had resented the so called “Bender Blues” when they were introduced because they looked so garish when there were only one or two people in a room wearing them. Today with all of the active duty and Auxiliary Coasties present in their Bender Blues, the older gentleman in the traditional uniform looked drab in comparison.

The change of command ceremony followed tradition. I was surprised that no one but the official party was in full dress whites. For the first few hours they always look nice. I am happy the Coast Guard didn’t throw them out with the Navy Blues and Khakis. I must confess I hated wearing them on the very rare occasions that I had to. I did like the service dress white uniform and don’t know if that one was kept or not. In any event it was a good day for Coast Guard uniformed personnel to wear their short sleeve blues. Only the honor guard had on their service dress uniforms.

I enjoyed Captain Raymond Seebald’s remarks. He was supposed to speak for ten minutes and finally wound down at about twenty-five minutes. He was on a high. I remember my retirement day and remember how much I wanted to say. It only happens once and that is on the last day of one's career. That's a day you look forward to and dread when it has come.

Captain Carter the relieving officer kept his remarks brief and to the point. Usually they have their real say after the party is over and the guests have long since left. It is not their show, it is the outgoing CO that is in the person of the hour.  

When it came time for Commander Edward Seebald’s remarks the Lady Admiral had really spoofed him and told a number of tales about him. While the “Merchies” that were present came to say goodbye to the older brother, all of the Auxilarists came to say goodbye to the Commander. He had evidently made quite a name for himself with that group. It was obvious this officer had a good sense of humor. I had a chance to exchange a few words with him later and found I liked the guy. His remarks were appropriate and lasted seven or eight minutes.

Petty Officer Theresa Seebold was also retiring and made a few remarks.  

I was particularly impressed when one of the Seebald wives was presented with a plaque thanking her for her service and support. This I considered class. In my early days as an enlisted man, the attitude was, “if the Coast Guard wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one.” As an officer’s wife mine was the same person as she was as a white hat’s wife. Only I thanked her for staying home and raising our family of three boys. Nobody else mentioned it. I salute the idea of the Coast Guard formally recognizing the contribution of a good wife.

The band played it’s last number after we all sang, “Semper Paratus” and the Master of Ceremonies read a poem called, “Old Glory.” The retirees were piped ashore followed by the various dignitaries in the party.

We retired to the fantail of the Cutter Mackinaw where beer and wine was being served. One nice touch was a group of Hawaiian girls in sarongs, dancing the hula next to the gangway. There was a huge line waiting to get at the food. After talking to a few people I suggested to Larry that we leave before we ate to avoid the horrible build up of traffic that occurs on Friday afternoons when the “Flat Landers” head north to despoil Wisconsin.

Our ride home was as aggravating as the ride down.

In summary, in spite of a few aggravations it was a day I enjoyed. I realized a lot that should have been apparent to me before. It is hard to believe that more then a generation of Coast Guardsmen has passed since I was turned out to pasture. The day sure stimulated my thought processes which I have  shared with you. The story was supposed to be about the Seebald's and their retirement bringing almost an end to the era in which their entire family served and only one remains on active duty. Instead you were made to share my thoughts of the day.  

I hope you stuck around to read it all.

The Seebald Brothers have started a consulting firm and have set up a website. The URL is www.seebald.com. 

I don't think any of the Chicago politicians got away with any of the gold bullion. 

 

The Chicago Tribune reported briefly on this event and this was their article:

 


Brothers (and sister) in arms step down

Coast Guard chief of Port of Chicago, 2 siblings, retire

By Glenn Jeffers Tribune staff reporter

July 13, 2003

After 26 years of service, three of them patrolling the lakefront as captain of the Port of Chicago, Capt. Raymond Seebald retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Friday, along with two of his siblings.

In a ceremony at Navy Pier, Seebald, 48, was relieved of duty as commander of the city's marine safety office. Capt. Terrance Carter replaced Seebald at the ceremony. Carter had been working in the Coast Guard budget office in Washington.

Seebald's brother, 20-year veteran Cmdr. Edward Seebald, and his sister, Petty Officer Theresa Seebald, also retired from the Coast Guard on Friday. They have five other siblings who have served in the Coast Guard. Four are retired and the fifth, Lt. Matt Seebald, works in Washington.

Their father, Ray, blames himself. "We always took them up to the academy," he said. He said he had told his children he couldn't afford to send them all to college on his engineer's salary.

The message, recalled Edward, was that by 18 "you were on your own."

The first of the Seebald kids to leave the family's home in Buffalo for the Coast Guard Academy was Richard, who enrolled in 1970. During his senior year a brain tumor was diagnosed. He underwent surgery and received a medical discharge. He died a few years later, when Edward was an academy freshman. "In reality, [boot camp] was good," he said. "There was no time to deal with [Richard's death]."

Raymond Seebald served in Hawaii and Alabama before receiving a master's degree in environmental chemistry from the University of Maryland in 1983. He then returned to Buffalo in 1986 to see Theresa enlist.

She served for 13 years before retiring. She was working as a medical technician in 1996 when TWA Flight 800 crashed in New York.

Raymond said the reality of retirement has yet to sink in..

He plans to travel for the next few months with Theresa before returning to the Buffalo area to work with Edward at a maritime security firm they founded.

"I want to see what it's like to be in one spot for a month," he said.  

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune



Chapter in Coast Guard History Closing - Three of Eight Siblings in Service Retire 

Reprinted from Military Dot Com.

NEW YORK-July 9, 2003 - They've rescued sailors lost in perilous seas, busted drug runners and mustered forces to respond to countless natural and man-made disasters – the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the devastating Hurricane Hugo and the fatal crash of TWA Flight 800, to name a few.

They've also been in charge of major U.S. ports, warships, military aircraft and small boat rescue crews. They've held titles like law enforcement agent, medic, teacher, pilot and commanding officer.

They are the Seebalds – eight brothers and sisters who've all served in the U.S. Coast Guard for, at present count, more than 120 years of combined service. When the last two siblings to join were sworn in 13 years ago, the admiral that presided over the ceremony in their hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., informed them that they were the largest immediate family to serve in one armed force in the United States. Then-Mayor James Griffin also proclaimed the date as Seebald Day in Buffalo.

Three of the remaining four Seebalds still in the Coast Guard will retire together in a ceremony July 11th in Chicago.

Capt. Raymond Seebald is the senior of the three, in his 26th year of service. He is the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Chicago, and the Captain of the Port of Chicago. His career highlights include serving as a White House aide, acting as the last U.S. representative to the Panama Canal Authority during the canal's transition of ownership and developing post-9/11 anti-terrorism plans.

Cmdr. Edward Seebald is retiring after 20 years of service, from his current post in Manhattan as the director of 3,800 Coast Guard Auxiliarists, members of the volunteer arm of the Coast Guard.

Edward used the skills of these volunteers to mount a response to assist New York City firefighters and police officers during and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He's also the Seebald with the most sea time – 9 ½ years spent on four Coast Guard Cutters. Both Raymond and Edward have also traveled the world to give training to foreign navies and other foreign government agencies.

Petty Officer 1st Class Theresa Seebald has served the Coast Guard for 13 years as a medical technician. She was one of the first people to respond to the tragic crash of TWA Flight 800, where she was charged with the daunting task of setting up a temporary morgue for recovered victims. She also served at the health clinic for the Coast Guard's boot camp and was an instructor at a treatment center for recovering drug abusers and alcoholics.

Raymond, Edward and Theresa will leave their brother, Matthew, to carry the torch as the last of the Seebald siblings remaining in the service. Matthew currently serves at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington.

The other four Seebald siblings are Richard, Joseph, Marilyn and Barbara. Richard was medically discharged from the Coast Guard Academy after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor – he died a few years later due to complications. Joseph, a former Coast Guard C-130 Hercules pilot, retired a few years ago and is now an airline pilot. Joseph also helped Edward in Manhattan with the response to the 9/11 attacks. Marilyn played a critical role in the design of the uniforms for Coast Guard women – she now owns a daycare center outside Buffalo. Barbara was a driver for one of the service's Vice Commandants, and also worked for the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and currently lives in Maryland.

Brother Matthew is not alone in his service – a second generation of Seebalds has also maintained the family ties to the Coast Guard. Marilyn's son Christopher is a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Barbara's three sons also served in the Coast Guard. One, tragically, was killed in the line of duty during a search and rescue mission. A Seebald cousin, Capt. Mary Landry, is the commanding officer of the Coast Guard's marine safety office in Providence, R.I., and is Captain of the Port of Providence.

Copyright © 2003 Military Dot Com


Jack,

Thanks for the nice article, it is always a pleasure sharing time with sailors.  Thank you for coming to the retirement it was a great time and
great company.  I fully approve of the article and it is truly told from a sailors perspective.

Thanks again
ed

Edward P. Seebald,


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