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cadet blogs

Our Finest Hours

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Last night was a uniquely special moment in Coast Guard history; the renowned Coast Guard movie The Guardian is no longer the only Coast Guard movie out there. Right here in New London, the entire Academy community, officer candidates, and many guests from the reserves and operational Coast Guard joined as one for a prescreening of The Finest Hours. The Finest Hours depicts the story of Bernie Webber’s daring rescue of 33 survivors aboard the tanker vessel SS Pendleton, which had split in two during a winter nor’easter.

 

After a family-style dinner and the logistical miracle busing all cadets and officer candidates to downtown New London, we sat as one Coast Guard packed into the Garde Arts Center. Before the film started, we had the pleasure of hearing our senators from Connecticut speak, and they made it clear that New London is a Coast Guard city. The Coast Guard and New London are linked by the many years that the Academy has overlooked the Thames River, and cadets have been making visits to New London on an every-weekend basis since the Academy was established here. The other point the senators stressed is that the Coast Guard museum will be built right here in the city. We are the only service without a museum, and it’s long overdue for us to have a place to display artifacts from our long and celebrated history as well as hail the heroic acts of our famed Coast Guardsmen and women. Bernie Webber’s story will be among those told in that museum.

 

Before the movie began, our famed 23rd Commandant Admiral Thad Allen took the stage. Admiral Allen reminded us that this movie is what our careers are all about – what are our finest hours going to be? We are going to be out on the water, flying, or coordinating response during the most severe weather and most difficult cases, and we must be prepared to respond under stress. Admiral Allen believes we are ready. He trusts us to be ready to weigh risk and reward, be leaders of character, and to do our duty to make sure that everyone makes it back while accomplishing the mission. This is a man that served during the response to Deep Water Horizon, Hurricane Katrina, and the attacks on 9/11. Admiral Allen understands the courage and dedication it takes to get the mission done, so I will be sure to keep his words close to my heart.

 

Bernie Webber’s finest hours were spent in the cold, dark waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts rescuing those men. Coincidentally, I did a presentation about Mr. Webber’s heroic rescue during my Swab Summer almost four years ago. I remember being moved by his courage to risk his life to save others out of a sense of duty. In particular, I could not believe he was able to say goodbye to his girlfriend before he went out. Now that I am a senior and on the cusp of gradation, the challenge to fulfill my duties under any circumstances carries very real weight. In a few short months, I will be the one answering the call. I have a family and a girlfriend who I would like to reassure that I will make it back when I go out. Thinking about their reactions if I said I might not make it back, I get a sense of what Bernie Webber must have felt when he set out. The Coast Guard is an all volunteer service, like our fellow armed services. That means no matter what our feelings or fears are before our missions, we go out, execute, and we bring our people home. Our challenge is executing the mission so that we, too, can go home at night. At the same time, I have the utmost respect for the families and spouses at home who wait for us to return. Their greatest challenge is often not knowing and fearing the worst. The stress on their emotions is hard to imagine, so after seeing The Finest Hours, I had a renewed appreciation for spouses and families of service members.

 

If I have kept your attention this long, then you should definitely go see The Finest Hours, and tell your friends about it, too! This movie captures the essence of not only the Coast Guard but also the armed services in general; we have volunteered to serve this country. I hope you enjoy the story of our service’s most daring rescue. Sit back and enjoy the show!

 

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