Why I Volunteer

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affiars Prog...

I have had several friends ask me about my participation in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Why do I do it?  What’s in it for me?  To me I thought the answers to those questions were obvious.  It all started just after the events of 9/11.  I was sitting at home, then in Chicago, trying to figure out what I could do to help.  As a former United States Marine I was furious and felt helpless.  I considered the possibility of trying to go back to active duty but that was not realistic at that point in my life.  I started to look at organizations on-line such as the Red Cross but they did not meet my needs.  I then stumbled on to the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  I ended up going to a meeting of one of the local Flotilla’s in Chicago.  I found out that they perform duties more than just boating safety classes.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed, all-volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard. The Auxiliary was created by an Act of Congress in 1939, and has grown to over 32,000 members who daily support the Coast Guard in all its non-military, and non-law-enforcement missions. We have members and units in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

Auxiliary members conduct safety patrols on local waterways and assist in Search and Rescue with boats and aircraft, teach boating safety classes, conduct free vessel safety checks for the public, provide boating safety literature to dealers, as well as many other activities related to recreational boating safety.

Many of the members were former military.  It felt like the right place to be to help my community and my country.  Even though it is a civilian arm of the Coast Guard it has the same military structure and pride of belonging.  I found a sense of belonging from the beginning so I decided this was what I needed to do.  I am now with Flotilla 25, located on Lake Hartwell, SC and GA.  I am currently the Flotilla Staff Officer for Public Affairs (FSO-PA) and a Admissions Partner for the United States Coast Guard Academy.

The bottom line is that I think we all have a calling in our lives and mine is to serve my community and country in anyway that I can which is why I choose to be a Police Officer and a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.



Memorial Day 2014

Gallabrae, Royal Highland Fusiliers

Gallabrae, Royal Highland Fusiliers (Photo credit: JA SC)

This past weekend was the Memorial Day Holiday weekend.  I had the pleasure of working through the weekend.  I say pleasure because I worked the Gallabrae Highland Games that were held at Furman University on May 24, 2014.  The games were  a celebration of the Scottish heritage as well as a celebration of Memorial Day.  The opening ceremonies for the games were a colorful parade of all the military service color guards, the parade of the Tartans and include a detachment of the Royal Highland Fusiliers.  There were veterans from every military branch in attendance.  I was able to meet some real ‘Hero’s’ during this event.  It made me remember what this Memorial Day holiday was all about. to remember those that served and made the ultimate sacrifice.





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12th Anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole (DDG-67)


On 12 October 2000 was attacked by a suicide bomber while it was harbored and being refueled in the Yemen port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors were killed, and 39 were injured.  The terrorist organization al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.

On the morning of Thursday, 12 October 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, docked in Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 09:30. Refueling started at 10:30.  Around 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small craft approached the port side of the destroyer, and an explosion occurred, creating a 40-by-40-foot gash in the ship’s port side, according to the memorial plate to those who lost their lives.  According to former CIA intelligence officer Robert Finke, the blast appeared to be caused by explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat.  Around 400 to 700 pounds (200–300 kg) of explosive were used.  The blast hit the ship’s galley, where crew were lining up for lunch.  The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control after 3 days. Divers inspected the hull and determined that the keel was not damaged.

17 sailors were killed and 39 were injured in the blast. The injured sailors were taken to the United States Army‘s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany, and later, back to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark on 17 May 1987. The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.  In June 2001, an al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring Osama bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.

The first naval ship on the scene to assist the stricken Cole was the Royal Navy Type 23 frigateHMS Marlborough, under the command of Capt Anthony Rix, RN. She was on passage to the UK after a six-month deployment in the Gulf. Marlboroughhad full medical and damage control teams on board and when her offer of assistance was accepted she immediately diverted to Aden. Eleven of the most badly injured sailors were sent via MEDEVAC to a French military hospital in Djibouti and underwent surgery before being sent to Germany.

The first U.S. military support to arrive was a Quick Response Force from the United States Air Force Security Forces, transported by C-130. They were followed by another small group of United States Marines from the Interim Marine Corps Security Force Company, Bahrain flown in by P-3. Both forces landed within a few hours after the ship was struck and were reinforced by a U.S Marine platoon with the 1st Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company (FAST), based out of Norfolk, Virginia. The Marines from 4th Platoon, 1st FAST arrived on the 13th from a security mission in Bahrain. The FAST platoon secured the USS Cole and a nearby hotel that was housing the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

USS Donald Cook and USS Hawes made best speed to arrive in the vicinity of Aden that afternoon providing repair and logistical support. USNS CatawbaUSS CamdenAnchorageDuluth and Tarawa arrived in Aden some days later, providing watch relief crews, harbor security, damage control equipment, billeting, and food service for the crew of the ColeLCU 1666 provided daily runs from the Tarawa with hot food and supplies and ferrying personnel to and from all other Naval vessels supporting USS Cole. In the remaining days LCU 1632 and various personnel from LCU 1666 teamed up to patrol around the Cole while the MV Blue Marlin was preparing to take up station to receive the Cole.

A memorial to the victims of the attack was dedicated at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on 12 October 2001. It was erected along the shore of the Elizabeth River near the USS Wisconsin, and overlooks the berth of the USS Cole. Seventeen low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the sailors, whose lives were cut short. Three tall granite monoliths, each bearing brass plaques, stand for the three colors of the American flag. A set of brown markers encircling the memorial symbolize the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. In addition, 28 black pine trees were planted to represent the 17 sailors and the 11 children they left behind.

The memorial was funded by contributions from thousands of private individuals and businesses to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which gave the memorial to the Navy. Its design originated as a vision of USS Cole crew members, who then teamed with Navy architects and the Society to finalize the project.

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30th Anniversary of the Beirut Barracks Bombing


October 23, 1983 the Marine Barracks in Beirut was bombed killing 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers.  This year is the 30th anniversary is this tragic and sad event.

Suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8), the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II‘s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Vietnam War‘s Tet Offensive, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.  Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died. An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast. The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.

At around 6:22 a.m., a 19 ton, yellow, Mercedes-Benz stake-bed truck drove to the Beirut International Airport (BIA), where the U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) was deployed. The 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach, was a subordinate element of the 24th MAU. The truck was not the water truck they had been expecting. Instead, it was a hijacked truck carrying explosives. The driver turned his truck onto an access road leading to the compound. He drove into and circled the parking lot, and then he accelerated to crash through a 5-foot-high barrier of concertina wire separating the parking lot from the building. The wire popped “like somebody walking on twigs.” The 19-ton Mercedes-Benz truck then passed between two sentry posts, passed through an open vehicle gate in the perimeter chain-link fence, crashed through a guard shack in front of the building and smashed into the lobby of the building serving as the barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT). The sentries at the gate were operating under rules of engagement which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. Sentries were ordered to keep their weapons at condition four (no magazine inserted and no rounds in the chamber). Only one sentry, LCPL Eddie DiFranco, was able to load and chamber a round. However, by that time the truck was already crashing into the building’s entry way: armed.

The suicide bomber, an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari, reached the entry way at 6:22 and detonated his explosives, which were later estimated to be equivalent to approximately 9525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.  The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story building into rubble, crushing many inside. According to Eric Hammel in his history of the U.S. Marine landing force,

“The force of the explosion initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions.”

The explosive mechanism was a gas-enhanced device consisting of compressed butane in canisters employed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) to create a fuel-air explosive.  The bomb was carried on a layer of concrete covered with a slab of marble to direct the blast upward.  Despite the lack of sophistication and wide availability of its component parts, a gas-enhanced device can be a lethal weapon. These devices were similar to fuel-air or thermobaric weapons, explaining the large blast and damage.  An after-action forensic investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determined that the bomb was so powerful, it would probably have brought down the building even if the sentries had managed to stop the truck between the gate and the building.

Less than ten minutes later, a similar attack occurred against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment, 6 km away in the Ramlet al Baida area of West Beirut.  As the suicide bomber drove his pickup truck towards the ‘Drakkar’ building, French paratroopers began shooting at the truck and its driver. It is believed that the driver was killed and the truck was immobilized and rolled to stop about fifteen yards from the building. A few moments passed; then, the truck exploded bringing down the nine-story building and killing 58 French paratroopers. It is believed that this bomb was detonated by remote control, and it is estimated that this bomb, though similarly constructed, was not as large as and was slightly less than half as powerful as the one used against the Marines at the Beirut International Airport. Many of the paratroopers had gathered on their balconies moments earlier to see what was happening at the airport It was France’s worst military loss since the end of the Algerian War in 1962.

A Beirut Memorial has been established at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and has been used as the site of annual memorial services for the victims of the attack.  We shall never forget!

For a list of those that lost their lives in the bombing go here http://www.beirut-memorial.org/memory/brtnames.html.

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PTSD – Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs

US Navy 101118-F-5586B-144 Marine Sgt. Brian J...

US Navy 101118-F-5586B-144 Marine Sgt. Brian Jarrell pets his dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past couple of years I have read many articles about veterans with PTSD that have been denied access to businesses with what have been described as service dogs.  On the surface I found this to be very disturbing that our veterans would be treated this way so I decided to do some research into the issue.   Based on information I found through the Department of Veterans Affairs I found that there are two distinct categories for these dogs.  The first is classified as a Service Dog.

A service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure.

Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:

  • Do things that are different from natural dog behavior.
  • Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability.
  • Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner’s disability.

Because the handler depends on the service dog’s help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.

The second is classified as an Emotional Support Dog.

An emotional support animal is a pet that helps an owner with a mental disability. Emotional support dogs help owners feel better by giving friendship and love. These dogs are also called comfort dogs or support dogs.

An emotional support dog does not need special training. Generally, a regular pet can be an emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes a letter saying that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for his or her health or treatment.

In most states, emotional support dogs do not have special permission to go to all public places like service dogs do. But, emotional support dogs are sometimes allowed special consideration. For example, the owner may be able to get permission to have an emotional support pet in a house or apartment that does not normally allow dogs. Or, the owner may be able to get permission to fly on a plane together with the dog.

To get special permissions, the dog owner needs to show the mental health provider’s letter to the landlord or airline. Sometimes, the landlord or airline will also want to see information about the mental health provider, such as a copy of their professional license.

While a dog’s companionship may offer emotional support, comfort or a sense of security, this in and of itself does NOT qualify as a “trained task” or “work” under the ADA, thus it does not give a disabled person the legal right to take that dog out in public as a legitimate service dog.  Setting up a realistic training plan to transform a dog with a suitable temperament  into an obedient, task trained service dog is the only way to legally qualify a dog to become a service dog [service animal] whose disabled handler is legally permitted to take the dog into restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, medical offices and other places of public accommodation.

The key to the issue with dogs is knowing which category the dog is in and having the proper documentation to show what category your dog fits in.  Education to the public and business owners is also very important so that there is more tolerance given when situations arise concerning our veterans and their service dogs.

My personal belief is that when in doubt that the veteran should be given the benefit of the doubt.

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Marine Embassy Guard Duty


6435From 1980 – 1982 I was selected and assigned to the Marine Security Guard Battalion for training to become a Marine Embassy Guard.  The duties of a Marine Embassy Guard are described as:

“The MSG will be assigned to duty to one of 140 plus MSG detachments around the world. The MSG will provide armed internal security to designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities to prevent the compromise of classified information and equipment vital to the national security of the Unites States.  As part of the MSG detachment, the detachment members secondary mission is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S. government property located within designated U.S. diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances, which require immediate aid or action.  The detachment member will be physically and mentally capable of enduring a direct counter-intelligence and combat environment, master interior guard procedures, be proficient with security, anti-terrorism, and counter espionage tactics.  The MSG member must also be knowledgeable in law enforcement techniques, small arms handling and employment, emergency first aid, force continuum, less than lethal application, and entry and access control procedures.”

When I completed training I was assigned to the U. S. Embassy, New Delhi, India (1980-1981).  I arrived in New Delhi at 0300, when almost all International Flights arrived due to the heat during daylight hours.  I was met at the airport by the NCOIC of the Marine Detachment, GySgt Busby.  The drive from the airport to the Embassy was an experience in itself, passing by elephants, camels, cows and other wild life just walking in and along the roadway.  I was glad to get some rack time after 16 traveling to get here from the United States, jet lag was just beginning to set in.  New Delhi was a great post and even though it was considered a ‘hardship post‘ because of the economic situation I found it to be a great place to work and live.  I had the chance to travel to Islamabad, Pakistan with a group from the American Embassy School.

My second post was at the U.S. Embassy, Moscow, U.S.S.R. (1981-1982) I was originally assigned to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia but was asked to go to Moscow at the last-minute due to some staffing issues there.  I was more than glad to go to Moscow as it was a place that I always wanted to see.  It goes without saying that Moscow and New Delhi were like night and day in comparison.  I was going to another ‘hardship’ post due to economic and political reasons.  Although there were some restrictions as far as travel I was able to see a lot of Moscow and other areas of the U.S.S.R. Most of the other Marines assigned to Moscow seemed to stay in and around the Embassy and did not show a lot of interest in getting out and seeing the sites when possible.  Every chance I got I would get out and about and try my best to experience the people and the culture.  During my time there the New Embassy was being built, sort of, so there was a lot of support staff there at the time.

Embassy duty in the Marine Corps is one of the best duties there is.  It can enhance your chance for promotion and is considered a must have B billet duty for a career in the Marine Corps.  It is very important that any Marine considering MSG Duty, do your homework.  Read about the duty, understand what the duty is all about.  MSG Duty is not a ‘free vacation’, there are many rules, regulations and restrictions all based on what post you are assigned.  To may Marines apply for the duty and for some reason believe it will be a three-year liberty call in an exotic land with exotic people.  This duty can help your career but if you fail to follow the rules and restriction it can also ruin your career.

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