'A Coast Guard kind of day'

Alex Doty • Aug 5, 2017 at 8:00 AM

High winds and a torrent of rain forced the National Coast Guard Memorial Service to make a quick move to the deck of the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw on Friday afternoon.

But despite the new location aboard the ship docked at Grand Haven’s Escanaba Park, instead of the waterfront park itself, the festival still took the time to honor the men and women of the Coast Guard who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice during their time in service. 

The memorial service included speeches by U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft, retired Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kent Fisher and U.S. Navy chaplain Bruce Boyle, and the placing of ceremonial wreaths honoring the fallen.

As high winds whipped a tent and waves caused the ship to sway and roll, Adm. Zukunft said he appreciated all that the community did to honor the service — especially having come out on what Boyle called “a Coast Guard kind of day” due to the wind, waves and rain.

“You go back to the day we lost the Coast Guard cutter Escanaba more than a generation ago, yet to this day, this city does not forget,” he said. “It does not forget our fallen.”

Zukunft noted that the city does for him the things that he and others cannot, including looking out for members serving in the Coast Guard, their families and those serving in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“You are all honorary members of the U.S. Coast Guard, riding out this weather today,” Zukunft said.

Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith said he enjoyed Friday’s service despite the makeshift location, and said the fact that they were able to pull off the event in a different spot shows what the Coast Guard is all about.

“The Coast Guard is all about adapting to weather and change, and certainly this was a prime example of assessing the situation, making smart decisions and continuing to have a traditional ceremony with the proper level of respect with all of our guests in town,” he said. “This is literally and figuratively a different way to view the ceremony, so I liked it.”

Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb said she also appreciated the way the event was able to occur despite the poor weather.

“It’s fun to see the adaptability, being able to think on your feet and come up with a different solution, not wanting to cancel anything and just trying to make it work with what you got,” she said. “It’s good to see. It’s that whole teamwork of how the Coast Guard works. Everything comes together and everyone makes it happen.”


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