A Tribute To The men and Women of the Quillayute River Station

By Dennis L. Noble

A permanent part of our Coast Guard Lore.............. 

On the night of 11-12 February 1997, I saw a group of ordinary men and women, who for a few hours during the height of a howling gale and mountainous seas, rise above the occasion. Those in the higher echelons of the U.S. Coast Guard's command structure will no doubt point out training prevailed. In a measure, this is correct. This small group of people, however, went above and beyond this simple view.

I hope in the press of your daily lives you will take a few minutes to remember what happen in the early morning hours of 12 February 1997 along the northwest coast of Washington State. I would like, as a remembrance of that day, to try with my inadequate words to tell you some of the things I observed. This has nothing to do with who was right or wrong, it is what I observed in those predawn hours. My thoughts on the ultimate reason for the incident will appear in print elsewhere.

BM2 David A. Bosley, MK3 Matthew E. Schlimme, SN Clinton P. Miniken, and SA Benjamin F. Wingo left the safety of a protected harbor to go to the assistance of two people they did not know. They did this in the teeth of a storm and in conditions many on shore describe as terrible.

Yet they went!

With their shipmates in possible danger, BM1 Jon Placido and his crew of three without hesitation set out into the same tempest. They knew full well they could meet the same fate as their shipmates.

Yet they went!

I will always carry with me the sight of Petty Officer Placido's motor lifeboat leaving the harbor, searchlight probing the darkness: sweeping back and forth across an angry sea. Probing. Probing the angry seas for obstacles. Then the turn to transit the bar. A very small, white boat rising. Rising. Rising, until I thought it would stand on it's stern. Almost lost in white water--Then the plunge downward.

Yet they went!

I saw injured crewmen being supported by those fighting their own grief. I saw people begin to cry, and immediately someone supported them. I saw people fighting back their tears, but continuing to work. I saw a small group of U.S. Coast Guard men and women who cared, suffered, and mourned the loss of their shipmates.

Yet they went!

For well over a century the small boat community of the U.S. Coast Guard has rammed very small boats into high, raging seas for a single purpose: so that others might live. Everyone in the small boat community understands; no one really recognizes their sacrifices. David, Matthew, Clinton, and Benjamin knew no one would recognize what they were attempting to accomplish.

Yet they went!

I know of no higher calling in life than what BM2 David A. Bosley, MK3 Matthew E. Schlimme, SN Clinton P. Miniken, and SA Benjamin F. Wingo attempted.

In years to come, when someone asks me what I consider my greatest honors in life, I will unhesitatingly say I had two honors. First, I knew BM2 David A. Bosley, MK3 Matthew E. Schlimme and SN Clinton P. Miniken.

Secondly, I had the honor, and privilege, of knowing the men and women of the Quillayute River U.S. Coast Guard Station. They represent everything that is good about the U.S. Coast Guard.

The men and women of the Quillayute River Station, and myself, do not need a reminder that two years ago a tragedy overtook us; we remember it all the time.

In the course of your lives take some time to reflect upon the nature of your business upon the sea and the many U.S. Coast Guard people who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that others might live.

Thank you for allowing someone from the Old Guard to put these few inadequate words on your forum.

- Dennis L. Noble, MSTCS, USCG (Retired)

Note - Senior Chief Noble submitted this story at my request. It originally was posted in the Scuttlebutt Section of Fred' Place a few years ago. This story belongs with our permanent Coast Guard lore - Jack

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