U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 5-14 installs new officers on Pearl Harbor Day
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY—Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 5-14 observed a Change of Watch ceremony Friday, Dec. 7, with recognition of 1,800 service hours and 126 vessel checks rendered this past year under its current officers. The evening also saw the installation of new officers for 2013. This annual ceremony was extra special due to its observance on Pearl Harbor Day. The proceedings took on a note of solemnity and opened a wider perspective on the organization’s dedication to safety and security.
Flotilla 5-14 was formed Aug. 11, 1973, and has consistently performed as one of the best of 13 flotillas in Division 5, Vice Cmdr. Mike Coyne said.
“Operations is something, we just do well,” Flotilla 5-14 Cmdr. Joe Erwin said. “Our key mission is to respond to boating mishaps on Cedar Creek Lake,” he said.
Henderson County game warden Dustin Balfanz recapped the highlights of a busy summer on Cedar Creek Lake as the keynote speaker.
“With all water we had, our call numbers were up,” Balfanz said. His office recorded 14 incidents of boating while intoxicated, with most occurring after 4 p.m. and into the wee hours of the next day. “As game wardens, we have inspection authority,” he explained. And even though impaired boat operators may switch places with a passenger aboard, we have ways of sneaking up on them. “Using common sense, most anyone can identify a boat that is not being operated correctly,” he said, adding that 14 is a large number for the summer months.
In addition, there were four boat wrecks, two of them major ones, hitting the SH 334 bridge. Charges were filed, he said. Both were serious wrecks that occurred very late in the night. “I hate to report this stuff, cause we’re having such a good time tonight. But we also had an engine prop slice open a thigh of a swimmer.” Another two crashes were minor. One couple ran into their neighbor’s boat dock and the other one involved a husband and wife on two personal watercrafts colliding. The woman broke her leg in the incident, he said.
“There were also two drownings. Both fell into the lake from a dock or retaining wall. One was a 2-year-old and the second an older woman. There was also a near-drowning of a 7-year-old from out-of-town. He followed a lot of older kids who were running and jumping off a dock, except he couldn’t swim and couldn’t touch the bottom, either. He was resuscitated, and the last I heard he was doing fine,” Balfanz said.
He said game wardens look for the same things that Auxiliary members look for while on patrol, possibly impaired operators, broken down boats. “We appreciate the work Flotilla 5-14 does,” he said. “As residents on the lake, you have a unique perspective and knowledge of the water and the changes in terrain. Plus, you’ve dedicated yourselves to helping those in trouble on the lake. You can often respond a lot quicker than we can. You have alleviated some of our call load. There’s no better partnership,” he said.
It’s a partnership that has been built up and guarded over many years of relying upon one another, he added.
Later in the evening, members were recognized for their number of years of active service. On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, Coyne presented membership service awards to John Steele for 30 operational hours, Joe Taylor for 25 years of consecutive service. Auxiliary members Charles T. Abbott and William Fackler received service awards for 35 years of Flotilla 5-14 membership.
Abbott, Fackler and David Burch (retired) remembered joining the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary together in 1977, and the friendship that sprang up between them and their families over the years. “My best friends are either church members or Auxiliary members,” Fackler commented.
Several members observed Pearl Harbor Day by recounting memories from the event. Fackler said his brother, Wally, was there when it happened and how worried his family was for his safety. “Tell your grandchildren and great-grandchildren what it was like when the country came together as one to win the war,” Fackler said alluding to the recycling drives for raw materials, rationing and the selling of war bonds.
Coyne said that as a people he feared “We were forgetting Pearl Harbor and what it meant to us. My dad’s uncle was on board a ship next door to the USS Arizona and he saw horrific sights.” A moment of silence was called in memory of those who perished in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Golden Taylor was recognized for closing out his active service with the Auxiliary this month at the age of 90. “Compared to some of you, I feel like a rookie, with only 16 years in,” he said. Burch called attention to the fact that Taylor was active duty with the Navy on Dec. 7, 1941, on patrol among the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska’s mainland. He had turned 20 in October, and Japan also targeted the Alaska coast for attack on that day. “He earned the Bronze Star and the rifleman’s insignia,” Burch said.
In turn, another member recognized Burch as having served as a tail-gunner of a B-17 in the Pacific. Because of his stature (short) he was able to climb into that small space and do a lot of damage. “I spent 40 years as a professional engineer and all people want to ask me about is my experience in the war,” Burch laughed.
Coyne summed up the reminiscing with, “It truly was the Greatest Generation.” In his closing remarks, Coyne thanked flotilla members for all the hard work they accomplished through their time and effort, and reiterated that Division has seen and heard and appreciates their contributions. “I look forward to working with your staff in 2013.”
For information about becoming a member of Flotilla 5-14, call Jim Salzmann at (903) 451-3821 or Joe Erwin at (903) 654-7879 .