Honoring the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard

Maura Krueger sat in the front row of the U.S. Coast Guard National Memorial Service clutching the hands of her husband, Dave, and son, Matt - who sat on each side of her. The three were there to honor their son and brother, Lt. Sean Krueger, who died while serving in the Coast Guard. "It means a great deal,' Maura said.
Lydia Coutré
Aug 6, 2011

 

Her son was one of four men honored at the annual ceremony Friday at Grand Haven's Escanaba Park. Lt. Krueger, Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Hoke and Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Banks died when their Sitka, Alaska-based CG-6017 helicopter crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Shaun Michael Lin of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team 91106 died Oct. 13, 2010, during a training exercise.

Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, spoke during the memorial service.

“Today we are (having) a birthday party, celebrating 221 years of Coast Guard service, but it is a party that has four empty seats,” Brice-O’Hara said.

The memorial service is the keynote event of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival. Mike Smith, the festival's executive director and a retired lieutenant commander, said the loss of these four men was immeasurable.

“You can read a banner headline, you can glance through a flurry of messages, you can watch a horrifying TV news clip,” Smith said. “But until you look in the eyes of a woman named Maura, her husband named David, their son named Matthew, and the eyes of a Lt. Lance Leone, you don’t now the depth of a loss.”

Lt. Lance Leone, who survived the crash of CG-6017, also attended the memorial service. Smith presented Leone and the Krueger family with small mementos that remember “with great admiration, the heroic service of each of our deceased.”

“We will be celebrating those lives through the rest of the weekend after this solemn ceremony,” Smith said.

Brice-O’Hara compared the memorial service to that of the ancient Greeks, who held “elaborate celebrations in tribute to their lost heroes,” she said.

“But they, like us, struggle to find words that were good enough to do justice to those who gave everything,” Brice-O’Hara said.

Maura said she appreciated the “very comforting words” from all of the speakers.

“It was just a wonderful ceremony, and we truly appreciate having you invite us here,” Maura said. “We’ve been made to feel as though we’re family.”

The memorial service has been an annual event since the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Escanaba was lost in battle in June 1943. All but two men died.

“Since that tragic event, Grand Haven and the Tri-Cities have annually gathered to pay tribute to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard, and to honor the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in service to the nation,” Lt. Cmdr. Kent Fisher (retired) said to the crowd.

A wreath was placed at the base of the Escanaba’s mast, where the Krueger family and others laid flowers. Members of the Coast Guard fired rifle volleys.

The USCG helicopter scheduled to fly over the park was unable to do so as it was called to another mission.

“This annual observance reinforces the unique and historic relationship between the city of Grand Haven and the United States Coast Guard by honoring Coast Guard men and women who have given their lives in service to their country,” Fisher said.

Troy Brevik, U.S. Coast Guard aviation maintenance technician chief, said he served and flew with the three men who died in the CG-6017 crash.

“I’m amazed at this whole event,” said Brevik, of Sitka, Alaska. “I’ve never been here before, and to be here and talk to the community is a wonderful honor in itself.”

Brevik said the men of CG-6017 were his “very good friends,” and the best way to honor them is in everyday life by thinking of them while he does his job.

“Mr. Krueger had a very vibrant personality — very outgoing, very friendly,” Brevik said. “Adam was quiet, but yet (could) be your best friend ever. And Brett was my hunting and fishing partner — my best friend.”

 

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