In less than ten days, I will separate from Active Duty with the United States Coast Guard. I will be a civilian again. It is incredibly hard to believe in some ways, and in others, I am surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.
I was afforded the opportunity to serve this great Nation for what will be five years. A large time commitment in some ways, and a miniscule amount of time in other ways. I will not be the lifer that gives 20 or more years to their nation; rather, I am cutting it off at five. My life long dream of being a firefighter will begin, but as I write this I am looking out at a gorgeous picture.
Calm seas, my laptop, a glass of wine, and the beautiful hues of the sun setting behind me as I look eastward out at the vast ocean. I have become someone that loves being on and near the water. Someone I never really knew I was. I always thought I was a forest kind of guy, or mountain kind of guy, but turns out I am a water kind of guy.
Here’s how the Coast Guard has been:
My heart is soothed but the sounds of the ocean lapping up against the hull of Coast Guard small boats while I sit on the pier listening to the lines that keep the boats safely moored up, being pulled taut, and then slackened. It looks like line two may need to be replaced soon. Chaffing has gotten the best of it. And in a lot of ways I feel like I am that line that is holding the 45 foot Response Boat Medium. Doing a job that means keeping things safe, and secure, but also a job that wears you out over time.
I tell my friends that serving in the Coast Guard has been great but also a monumental disappointment. How can something be so great also be something so disappointing? If you take a quick look at my Instagram, it looks like I would never want to leave the Coast Guard with all my pictures and videos I have posted. The missions I have been apart of have been incredible. I have assisted over 100 lives in one night when a booze cruise ran aground, saved ten lives on the Fourth of July (talk about patriotism) last year, and have trained over 50 Coast Guardsmen and women throughout the three years I have spent in Woods Hole. But for some reason, I continue to go to work disappointed, upset, angry, and defeated.
I take incredible pride in serving my nation. Maybe almost too much pride. I worked my ass off for eight weeks to earn the right to have a uniform say “Mead” over my right breast and “U. S. Coast Guard” over my left. Some people laugh at the Coast Guard, others love us. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is feeling fulfilled with my job. I have taken my job extremely seriously, and I have met far too many people that simply do not care.
I’ve been told I am an extremely hard worker, and intimidating due to my care for my job. To me, that is how the military is supposed to be. We are supposed to be hardened men and women ready to protect, defend and shield our Nation when called upon, and ultimately die for it. We stand the watch to be able to assist and save lives when our fellow citizens call upon us for help. These are things that if I said it at work, I would be laughed at, not critically, but people would say, “Easy there killer..” And I finally get why.
The Coast Guard has become extremely scared. We are a work force that use to row out in canoes with cork life jackets on into thirty foot seas to save people trapped in the surf. Now we need to get waivers if an armrest breaks on a boat because it “restricts the boat from performing one or more missions safely.” I get we need to make sure we are safe operating in an extremely dangerous environment, but I equate this to a firefighter saying, “Hey we can’t use the truck today, the armrest is broken.” You would never hear that in a million years.
This year, I responded to I couldn’t even tell you how many Search and Rescue (SAR) Cases that we were either told to stand down, or when we rolled up on the vessel is distress were already being assisted by TowBoat US or SeaTow. These companies are like the AAA of the water. The Coast Guard, believe it or not, really doesn’t provide much help to a mariner unless you are in a dire distress situation such as taking on water, or someone falling over board. Its a bazaar world of making tons of phone calls, consistently re-assessing risk, and waiting around for someone who sits in an office to make a decision for the “boots on the ground.”
And then there are the people that you invest so much time into, time that equates to months, and they end up simply not giving a damn. Their uniforms are wrinkled, haircuts are out of regulation, they don’t wear their cover around the base. Simply put they don’t care about their appearance, when all I can think of is how the military is always “squared away.” You have people that want to come to work and literally do nothing. They complain when they are told they are getting underway on the boat for a mission, and they are thankless for how good they have it for being in the military. See, when you’re in the Coast Guard, you aren’t sleeping in a hole that you dug that evening, you aren’t taking enemy fire every few days, you aren’t seeing your best friend turn into pink dust before your eyes and are wiping them off your face. You’re state side, sometimes on land, sometimes on a cutter, protecting the American people, sleeping in racks that are actually pretty comfortable, getting three square meals a day, and not taking enemy fire. And so many people in the Coast Guard forget how good they have it.
But then you do meet the people that get it. They’re rare. What I described above is something called a TED or Typical Enlisted Dude, that always complains no matter how good they have it. They’re common. The guys and gals that get it, they’re the leaders that all the TED’s complain about and god do I love those leaders. That is who I assimilate with. Someone so willing to get the job done no matter how shitty it maybe. Someone willing to yell at someone about how they need to start getting with the program and stop destroying the thing that I love so dearly. Someone willing to be hated because they want to make sure the military still stands for something. That’s me.
However, sometimes the TED’s get to these guys. Wearing them down, to a point where they are so spent and burnt out because they’ve been over used and taxed from their superiors leaning on them too much to fix the TED’s that we, like the line I described above, snap. There is a breaking point for everyone, and unfortunately, I have hit mine. However, fortunately, I will be able to go and live my dream of being a firefighter, where I think as a leader, I will forever flourish, and be where I truly belong.
But God damn it, I am going to miss it all. All the petty nonsense and drama of someone not caring and requiring me to yell at them. All the times I’ve given buddies shit passive aggressively because their uniforms looked like shit. All the times I’ve been paid to drive a 2.5 million dollar boat for the United States of America to help the American people. It’s been a wild ride Coast Guard. Its been something incredible. Something I will NEVER regret. Something I will always be PROUD of having done.