The High Endurance Life: Milestones

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst

Capt. Richard Mourey, commander, Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, presents Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Stafford, an electronics technician aboard the Morgenthau, with his first sea service ribbon while underway in the Pacific Ocean April 30, 2014. The cutter’s entire crew gathered for the ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Capt. Richard Mourey, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, presents Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Stafford, an electronics technician aboard the Morgenthau, with his first sea service ribbon while underway in the Pacific Ocean April 30, 2014. The cutter’s entire crew gathered for the ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

As America’s oldest maritime service, the Coast Guard has no shortage of seasoned mariners. There is a sense of pride that comes with serving at sea, in exchange for the sacrifices of time away from home, long hours and the inherent dangers of working offshore.

To commemorate the dedication of its underway members, the Coast Guard recognizes landmarks of sea service, the greatest of which is the Ancient Mariner: the Coast Guardsman with the most years at sea. Next is the small, elite group of Master Cuttermen, who have served no less than twenty years on the decks of Coast Guard cutters. Then there are Cuttermen, a title for anyone with five or more years at sea-going units. And finally there is the first step from landlubber to sailor: the Coast Guard sea service ribbon, earned after one continuous year on a cutter.

On April 30, 2014, three crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, a 378-foot high endurance cutter based in Honolulu, earned their first sea service ribbons. The setting for the ceremony could not have been more appropriate: amongst the rolling swells of the Pacific Ocean, not a scrap of land in sight.

Seaman Garrido, a member of the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau deck department, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Funicelli, a storekeeper, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Stafford, an electronics technician, show off their new sea service ribbons shortly after receiving them while underway in the Pacific Ocean April 30, 2014. The sea service ribbon signifies one year of continuous duty aboard a Coast Guard cutter. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Seaman Garrido, a member of the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau deck department, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Funicelli, a storekeeper, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Stafford, an electronics technician, show off their new sea service ribbons shortly after receiving them while underway in the Pacific Ocean April 30, 2014. The sea service ribbon signifies one year of continuous duty aboard a Coast Guard cutter. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

The entire crew, besides those vigilantly standing their watches, gathered on the cutter’s flight deck for the ceremony. With the familiar non-skid paint beneath their boots and the salty air in their lungs, they stood around their shipmates to watch them receive this nautical milestone.

“It’s a milestone at the start of my Coast Guard career, it shows some seniority,” said Seaman Earl Garrido, a member of the Morgenthau’s deck department, and one of the three recipients of the ribbon. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to serve.”

At first glance the award is nothing more than another colorful piece of fabric attached to the uniform. What cannot be seen is the preceding year. The countless hours standing watch, whether in the depths of the engine room, the steamy galley or at the lookout’s position above the bridge. The struggle of keeping down a meal as the cutter rocks violently, threatening to make a mess of anything not bolted to the deck. The serene, awe-inspiring sunrises as a day’s work begins. The family, which transcends gender, race and age, that makes up a crew.

The handful of Morgenthau crewmembers who received their ribbons may very well go on to become Master Cuttermen over the next two decades. Some of them may leave and never set foot on a vessel again. Regardless, they have left their mark on the cutter, and it on them. They have added a page to the history of nautical tradition by choosing to serve where many others dare not travel, out where the sky meets the sea.

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