AU REVOIR CAPTAIN HARVEY

By Daran Barfield

There are stories and articles on this site of the beginnings of a Coast Guard career but this one is about the end of a career. What is significant is that the author is a civilian. 

It is amazing how, when one really needs to express something urgent and essential, the words sometimes seem not to write.

On Friday, May 12, 2000, Captain Stephen J. Harvey, after 26 years of service, retired from this great organization. To many people who do not know or who may have never even heard of Captain Harvey, this event is probably of no consequence whatsoever. Or so they might think. I would like to take this opportunity to express in the written word as to what I have observed since Captain Harvey's arrival here in September of 1998. And for those of us here in G-OCU, none of what I am about to write should come as any surprise.

First, I would like to state, that the remarks I am about to make come from the experience of nearly forty years of living, nine of which were devoted to military service in the United States Army. As a former solider, I found it so ironic, that as Captain Harvey spoke at his ceremony yesterday, he mentioned the name of General George S. Patton in his remarks. For if there were ever a man who is so closely wedded and hewn to the professional principles of General Patton, it is Captain Harvey.

I had just arrived to Headquarters a month prior to Captain Harvey's arrival, and having no idea as to how the sea-services operated, I was doing all I could to learn about how this organization functions. On his first day, Captain Harvey, in his plain, easily understood, and precise language, told us that we were here "to support and assist the mariners out there in the fleet who were doing the Nation's business" and that we shall put forth our best efforts to do just that!  It is fair to say, that our operation (G-OCU) had already been "forewarned" that Captain Harvey "played by the rules" and that "there would be no cutting corners to achieve expedient   --which usually means half-baked---   results."  Sure enough, he said as much upon his arrival. "How refreshing," I thought to myself as heard him speak.

Yesterday, I could not help but feel both, the sense of joy and the sense of sorrow, at the impending retirement of this great mariner. Surely, I thought to myself, this man deserves the joys of retirement, especially after 26 years of "faithful and loyal service" to a Nation that has, at times, not seemed very grateful for the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform routinely make. Then, as Captain Harvey spoke, I suddenly realized that this was for real and tomorrow he would be gone, and the mariners' greatest advocate and voice of reason would be gone as well.

Standing there, over-wrought with emotion I might add, I recalled the time when I was a young soldier, new to the Army and wondered, sometimes desperately, would we ever find capable leadership; would we ever have anyone how would stand and fight for those of us in the field, who were out there getting our "muddy boots," even muddier. I wondered about the very mariner of whom Captain Harvey had just spoken of when he said that an enlisted member told him that he felt like the safest place he had ever been, was when he was underway and under the command of Captain Harvey. I wondered if the mariners out there in the fleet, separated from their families, performing the various and seemingly endless missions they undertake  ---often at grave risk, could fathom the consequence of what was about to occur. Most of all, however, I wondered if Captain Harvey thought that his years of personal sacrifice, missed soccer and baseball games with his two children, and the time spent away from Mrs. Harvey would go unnoticed and unappreciated.

I cannot answer those questions with absolute certainty but if experience is any indication, I can assure you, Captain Harvey, that while the sacrifices were numerous and great, none of them went unnoticed or unappreciated. I also believe the following to be true of you Captain Harvey:

        That you indeed made an enormously positive difference in the lives, and quality of life, of the mariners' out there doing the Nation's business.

        That no matter how politically or socially correct that someone else might have appeared to be, or might have wanted you to be, you never sacrificed or compromised your moral, professional, or ethical principles or standards.

        That you were a "leader" in every sense of the word and that always you led by personal example.

        That the Coast Guard will be a poorer place without you; for your concerns were with the mariners' out in the fleet. I never heard you express or worry about the next "plumb assignment," a Legion of Merit, a "glowing" Officer Evaluation Report, or the next promotion, all of which when ruthlessly sought after, sometimes, come at the expense of true honor and integrity.

        That, ultimately, history will prove that the battles you waged on behalf of the men and women in this great organization, were indeed the right battles that needed to waged when you waged them.

        That you have deeply inspired and motivated those of us who have the unique pleasure of serving under your outstanding leadership.

Above all, you have left an indelible mark upon the mariners' [and this civilian] that you have led, and the entire Coast Guard itself. As I look around  G-OCU, I see shades of you and your leadership traits developing among the next generation of Coast Guard leaders. And we are a much better place for having had you among our ranks Sir.

Captain Harvey, unabashedly, and with the deepest sense of honor, pride, and respect  --- three of the most important qualities intrinsic to a great leader like yourself--- I say "thank you" and may God bless you.

This is a very sad day for a great institution.

Very Respectfully,

Daran Barfield

 

Return to Coast Guard Stories