The Coast Guard Foundation gathered 500 strong in New Orleans on Friday, March 2nd to honor the bravery and fortitude of Coast Guard members who live and work in the 8th Coast Guard District, which ranges from the Gulf Coast to the inland waterways of the Midwest.
We honored the crew of CG-6553 stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, recognizing its bravery under very adverse conditions when it rescued two people from a sinking sailboat on November 13, 2011.
The helicopter crew — pilot LT Phil DeLisle, flight mechanic AMT2 Mark Espinoza and rescue swimmer AST2 Michael O'Leary — was brought on stage to accept the award from top-ranking Coast Guard personnel, Foundation representatives, and Senator Mary Landrieu. Co-pilot LT Brian Schmidt was not in attendance, but will receive his award back on base in Corpus Christi.
The crew of CG-6553 on stage accepting their award. From left to right: (AMT2 Espinoza, LT DeLisle, and AST2 O'Leary).
Of course, the events earlier in the week, with the loss of the crew from Mobile, Alabama, CG-6535, weighed heavily on everyone's minds. A moment of silence was observed early in the evening, in tribute to LT Dale Taylor, LT j.g. Thomas Cameron, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge and AMT 3 Andrew Knight.
"The Coast Guard Foundation is here for families, and we are here for the Coast Guard," said Boysie Bollinger, a long-time board member, who served as the evening's MC. "I know for a fact because I saw it first hand when the Foundation was here for us after Katrina. And I know for a fact that the Foundation will be here for the families of 6535."
The Coast Guard's Silent Drill Team traveled to the event from its home in Alexandria, Virginia and precisely executed the standard manual of arms presentations, to a standing ovation crowd who were impressed by their maneuvers.
The Coast Guard's Silent Drill Team in action.
Commandant of the Coast Guard, ADM Robert J. Papp described his visit to Mobile earlier in the day to meet the families of 6535. "I went there to comfort them, but it was me who felt better after the meeting. I was buoyed by hearing about how much they loved flying, the Coast Guard, and their service to our nation," said Admiral Papp.
"The phone rang early on Wednesday morning, and it was a call from our friends at the Coast Guard Foundation, saying, 'Tell us what you need. Tell us how we can help you. ', continued Papp. "The Coast Guard Foundation has always been there for us, and we are fortunate to have shipmates like you."
Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp.
The Honorable Mary Landrieu, senior senator from Louisiana, spoke about the strength of the city and its people, and the high regard she has for the Coast Guard. New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson was acknowledged for her long time support for the 8th Coast Guard District dinner.
Lousiana Senator Mary Landrieu speaks about the Coast Guard at the Foundation's NOLA dinner.
A special appeal to raise funds for the Coast Guard Foundation's Family Disaster Relief Fund generated more than $30,000 in support. The evening closed with thanks from dinner co-chair and Foundation board member Otto Candies.
Special Reception Sponsor
Cocktail Reception Sponsor
Aramco Service Company
Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.
Dessert & Dancing Sponsor
Bisso Marine Company, Inc.
For a complete list of dinner sponsors, download the dinner program book.
Long-time Coast Guard Foundation Director Otto Candies concluded the dinner.