View the service reflections of Coast Guard Auxiliary member:
SO Stephen Fletcher
U.S. Coast Guard Auxilary
If you served in any branch of the U.S. Military, join your brothers and sisters in arms at TogetherWeServed.com
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
I decided to continue to serve in the Coast Guard Auxiliary as a way to give back to my country, and help support active duty as well as Veterans. The Auxiliary has opened door and opportunities for me to serve alongside the regular active and reserve duty (the gold side counterparts to an auxiliary member). Many of the local stations are limited on their manpower, and the auxiliary fills the void. My skills and prior service as a Marine, can be utilized to help our men and women currently serving. Everything happens at the flotilla level, those are the workers, the troops in the trenches. The flotilla that I am in serves Sector Detroit, and Station Belle Isle. We hold our meetings at the Coast Guard Station, and work closely with them in various missions. Giving back to those that serve, the country, and the community.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
I was looking to expand on my information technology training, and my path was geared to that end. After Boot Camp I attended my MOS school (Computer Science School) at MCB Quantico, VA. I then was sent by the Marine Corps to the various RASC’s, and then ending (keeping true to a Marines basic function) at a Deployable computer based unit (5th DFASC). While at the 5th DFASC, we accomplished many “first’s” in Marine Corps history. This unit was a small 30 member T/O billeted unit, but true to the unit’s motto, we were “Good to Go”. Some amazing advances in the technology and computing world were taking place. The 5th DFASC was the first ADPE mobile center, taking the computing power of a RASC out into the field to support a MAGTF. We were the first to load onto a ship, USS Fairfax County (LST-1193), first to conduct ship-board data processing, first to deploy in a beach-head landing, first to deploy onto aircraft. There were many first’s that this unit took on and accomplished.
In the Auxiliary, I have had the chance to expand on my Marine Corps Training. Taken training and become a Operational Auxiliarist, Vessel Examiner, Program Visitor, and Information Systems. The Auxiliary allows me to support the US Coast Guard in non-traditional roles as well. The Coast Guard maintains a skills bank of members with certian skill sets. They can then draw upon these skills on an as needed basis to accomplish tasks which would otherwise overburden active duty manpower. Augmenting the station crew is another way to give your time and talents. Watchstanding or Radio Watchstanding frees up a crew member to accomplish other duties, making full use of their resources.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
The Marines and Coast Guard are always there in time of emergency. Humanitarian Aid is always a focus when you answer the call for help. Hurricane Diana in 1984 was one time we stepped up to the call, and assisted the people of North Carolina that suffered severe storm damages and losses. The one operation that sticks with me is the bombing(s) in Beirut. We were supporting those Marines/Navy personnel after the bombing of the US Embassy (18 April 1983). Feel free to view the online version of the Memorial that was made by the community of Jacksonville, NC. Visit the Memorial when you are at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. http://www.beirut-memorial.org/history/index.html
In the Auxiliary, we have participated in many Maritime Observation Missions, Search and Rescue, Aids to Navigation, and Air Support. Auxiliary boats and aircraft donate hundreds of hours that might not be available if only active duty did those tasks. Thousands of buoys need to have their positions verified to confirm that are on station and protecting the navigable waters.
One of the largest missions of the Auxiliary is Recreational Boating Safety. The Auxiliary promotes safety on the docks and water, gives public education on water safety, boating skills, and rules of the road. Free vessel checks are also performed to advise the boat owner of all the federal and state requirements keeping the boat owner informed and safe.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
One of the best places I was stationed that gave me the best memories was the 5th Deployable FASC, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC. It was there that I was cross-trained on many different fields / MOS’s within the 40xx group, and other duties as well. We trained in garrison, and deployed to the field. We participated on various exercises (Solid Shield and CAX were favorites). The unit consisted of about 28-30 Marines total, so it was a very close, tight group, from our Major down to the last Private. There were many experiences that I had which I don’t believe would have happened if I was at a larger land based unit, that wasn’t deployable. (See news article in my profile documents). We broke ground for many Marines to follow us, as at that time our unit was new, and testing the theory. We accomplished many “firsts” in Marine Corps data processing history. First ship-board unit, first ship-board operations, first beach landing, first air-transport, among others, all for a mainframe computing environment. We even got kudos from BGEN Wineglass on being Marines in the field. CWO4 Williams can share that and other stories. We lived up to our new units motto, as we really were “Good To Go”.
On the Coast Guard side, Sector Detroit is the place to be. With missions at the Detroit River Days, to the Ford Fireworks, to Ice Patrol missions, serving here at home with the local Coast Guard just strengthens our resolve to be Semper Paratus (Always Ready).
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
The many friends that I made while attached to the various units I served in. Additionally, many of them are here on TWS, and we have re-connected and re-visited our past memories, true to the mission of this site. The stories from all them members of TWS help create as well as document the history and traditions of which I played a small role in.
One of the most heart-wrenching experiences was the recent multi-burial of veterans. These veterans were unclaimed remains of those that passed without any next of kin or the means to provide a funeral. On September 11, 2014, thirteen veterans, located by the Missing In America Project (MIAP) made the long journey to the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, MI. Hearse after hearse pulled into the cemetery until all 13 arrived. Pallbearers made up of many volunteers from active duty Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy. Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary also volunteered as did members of VFWs and American Legions. 78 pallbearers carried these thirteen men to their final resting place. One family member was there to receive her brother’s flag. The other twelve were presented to Gold Star Mothers who stood in place for the family these men did not have.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?
The Navy Unit Commendation. This award shows not only that we did a good job, but shows the teamwork of the entire unit to earn that distinction. Additionally, I was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. The citation in part reads:
“For exceptionally meritorious service from June 24, 2009 to June 23, 2014, while providing unprecedented levels of dedicated public service and operational support to the U. S. Coast Guard’s missions. Demonstrating remarkable professionalism and boating safety expertise, the Auxiliary performed over 1.1 million vessel safety checks and marine dealer visits, delivered over 540 thousand hours of boating safety course instruction and conducted over 809 thousand hours of public outreach. Displaying superior underway and airborne operational proficiency, Auxiliarists logged over 19.8 million hours of support and patrol missions, saved over one thousand lives, assisted over 20 thousand boaters in distress and prevented the loss of more than 185 million dollars in property. The Auxiliary always answered the call, remaining in lockstep with the Coast Guard’s response to every major incident.”
Teamwork is what these two awards recognize.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Navy Unit Commendation & Coast Guard Commendation. These awards show not only that we did a good job, but shows the teamwork of the entire unit to earn that distinction. While the other awards also hold great memories, these two signify the brotherhood, or as history has shown many times; “this band of brothers”, the cohesiveness of the Marine Unit.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I would have to say that the one Marine that made the biggest impact on me was my Senior Drill Instructor, Sgt Slusser. He instilled in us recruits not only the training that we needed in those long weeks of Boot Camp, but the drive to be the best at everything we do. For that title ‘US Marine’ is a very prestigious honor to have, and it proves that we are the best!
The other individuals that stand out the most are the three officers of the small but close knit unit, 5th DFASC. These three were great leaders, and we learned a great deal from them, and I am proud to have served with all three (Maj Marsh, CWO’s Williams and Trimble).
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
This incident stems from my time at the 5th Deployable FASC. Most data-processing Marines, once they have completed Boot Camp and gone on to their MOS in data-processing, leave the grunt work behind. They are used to working in a building, eating at the chow hall, and shopping at the base exchange. The 5th DFASC brought back the word deployable. This was our first “deployment” and our chance to experience field life. But alas, in the field there is no head, what to do. Well, the sharp thinking minds on the data-processing Marines, took the admin’s jeep (it had a little trailer) and returned later with a port-a-john, which of course they covered and concealed with camo-netting.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I followed the path I started in high school; the Information technology realm. I am currently supporting the IT infrastructure (soon to be a national realm) of a transportation business, including Main site, VPN remote sites, and hundreds of mobile data (in vehicle) terminals.
In the Auxiliary I have continues my Information Systems path, becoming the Division Staff Officer-Information Systems. This position tasks me with correctly recording submitted hours and supporting the other staff officers with Information Systems support. Data Processing in a nutshell, pulling training reports and others as needed.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
AMVETS, American Legion, American Cold War Vet Assoc, Marine Corps Vet Assoc, Marine Corps League, NCO Association, NAUS, VFW. I also serve in the USCG Auxiliary. Being an auxiliarist has allowed me to re-connect with my military memories, as well as re-establish those connections that I had while serving in the USMC. Back in uniform, and giving of my time and talents to support the US Coast Guard’s mission. Boating Safety is the primary mission of the Auxiliary, and we augment the USCG in other areas. As I expand my career in the Auxiliary in areas of Vessel Examinations, Program Visitors, and Auxiliary Operations (including USCG Watch Standing) with Boat and Air Stations, I will continue to focus on giving back.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
Military life has given me a sense of discipline and responsibility. Bearing, as they teach you in boot camp, is how you carry yourself. The leadership traits you learn can all be applied throughout your life, and will serve you well into your future years, whatever the situation is.
The skill set is useful in maintaining good work ethics. Leadership is key in almost all businesses, and those experiences in the USMC and USCG have developed and honed those skills.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
Keep the faith. Be true to yourself and your service branch, do your best at all times. As a Marine I still uphold the Marine motto ‘Semper Fi’. Know that we all veterans and civilians alike, support the things that you do that ensure the preservation of our freedoms. Thank You for your service !!
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
TWS has let me re-connect with many of the Marines (and other branch service members). It is all about keeping those connections, and developing new ones along the way. The camaraderie that one develops while serving in any of the armed forces runs deep in the soul of that person.
TWS, regardless of the branch, allows that brotherhood that we had in time of service to rise up and flourish again. I have been able to make remembrance profiles for some of my family members (my father and grandfather) who served in WWI and WWII. Having a place that my family can share information and service history of our relatives is a great way to honor their contributions to the freedoms that I enjoy. Additionally, I have the honor of adopting a fallen member(s) profile from the current era, and can ensure that his sacrifice to this nation is not forgotten. From the stories and knowledge that the veterans have for the newer service personnel, to the lively banter in the forums, TWS allows the history to be both cherished and passed along.
These attempts were met with increasingly stiff resistance. American colonists claimed they were unconstitutional, suggesting that they deserved to have representation in the British Parliament if they were to shoulder some of the war costs. Taking a harsh response, the British instead used their military to allow their representatives to safely perform their tax collection and other duties.
At the time, the loyalties among the colonists were divided. Historians estimate that one-third of colonists supported the American Revolution, one-third sided with the British and one-third remained neutral about breaking away from British rule.
It was the passage of the Tea Tax in 1773 that resulted in the first revolutionary act; Boston colonists masquerading as Native Americans boarded merchant ships and tossed their cargo and tea overboard. In response, the British Parliament passed a series of punitive laws in 1774 which the American Patriots named ‘Intolerable Acts,’ closed Boston Harbor and sent in troops to occupy Boston. The Patriots responded by setting up a shadow government that took control of the province outside of Boston. Twelve other colonies supported Massachusetts, forming a Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance, and set up committees and conventions which effectively seized power from the royal governments. Most Colonialists were uncertain what was going to happen next.
In April 1775, fighting broke out between Massachusetts militia units and British regulars at Lexington and Concord and by the following summer, the rebels were waging a full-scale war for their independence that lasted eight years from 1775 to 1783.
The Continental Congress appointed General George Washington to take charge of militia units besieging British forces in Boston, forcing them to evacuate the city in March 1776. Congress then created the first ever Continental Army and placed Washington in command. He was also giving responsibility of coordinating state militia units.
In mid-June 1776, a five-man committee including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin was tasked with drafting a formal statement of the colonies’ intentions. The Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence – written largely by Jefferson – in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776; a date now celebrated as the birth of American independence. Later that month, the Continental Congress formally declared independence from British rule.
Following these actions support for the Revolutionist grew to about 40 to 45 percent of the colonial population. About 15 to 20 percent of the population still supported the British Crown, however. Known as Loyalists, they fielded perhaps 50,000 men during the war years in support of the British Empire.
To strengthen their forces, the British hired about 30,000 German mercenaries, popularly known in the colonies as “Hessians.” They made up about one-third of the British troop strength in North America. By 1779, the number of British and German troops stationed in North America was over 60,000.
Since native lands were threatened by expanding American settlement, most Native Americans also joined the fight against the United States. An estimated 13,000 warriors fought on the British side.
By June 1776, with the Revolutionary War in full swing, a growing majority of the colonists had come to favor independence from Britain. It was during that same month that the British government – determined to crush the rebellion – sent a large fleet, along with more than 34,000 troops to New York.
In the cities the British had an advantage due to its naval superiority to capture and occupy coastal cities. In August, 1776, this enabled Gen. William Howe’s Redcoats to rout the Continental Army on Long Island, forcing Gen. George Washington to evacuate his troops from New York City by September. Pushed across the Delaware River, Washington fought back with a surprise attack in Trenton, New Jersey, on December 26, 1776, and won another victory at Princeton to revive the rebels’ flagging hopes before making winter quarters at Morristown.
In a plan to change the fortunes of war, the British attempted to strategically control Upstate New York and isolate New England from the Southern colonies in an effort to decisively put an end to the Revolution. The British strategy involved three main prongs of attack aimed at separating the Revolutionists from New England where they enjoyed their greatest support by taking control of New York City, Albany, and the Hudson River. First, British Gen. John Burgoyne would lead 8,000 troops from Canada. Barry St. Leger would direct his troops east from Lake Ontario along the Mohawk River valley, and Gen. Howe would move his troops north from New York City, where all three would meet at Albany to destroy the Rebel armies caught in the middle.
In June Burgoyne moved south from Canada, boated up Lake Champlain to middle New York then marched over the divide and down the Hudson Valley to Saratoga, some 188 miles distance. On the way, Burgoyne’s men dealt a devastating loss to the Americans in July 1777 by retaking Fort Ticonderoga.
However, what Burgoyne didn’t know was Howe’s decision not to move north to Albany but rather to takes his forces southward from New York to confront Washington’s army near the Chesapeake Bay.
Howe was successfully in defeating the Americans at Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 1777 and entered the Patriot capital of Philadelphia on September 25. Although he succeeded in capturing the city and forcing Congress to flee to York, Pennsylvania, he decided to camp his army in the capital for the winter, rather than proceeding with the plan of joining forces with Burgoyne and St. Leger at Albany.
Still unaware of Howe’s change in plans, Burgoyne continued driving south to Albany, NY along the historic water route of Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River. But in the forests near the Lake George area Burgoyne’s advance south faltered from Colonist troops chopping trees and blocking Burgoyne’s path, slowing the British considerably.
By the time Burgoyne reached Fort Edward, supplies were running low so he sent a detachment to capture an American supply base at Bennington, Vermont. The detachment was attacked and defeated by John Stark and the Green Mountain Boys, costing Burgoyne a thousand men.
It was right around this time that another problem arose.
On the morning of July 27, 1777, a loyalists by the name of Miss Janes McCrea visited a friend, Sarah McNeil, who was preparing to leave Fort Edward for safety. About noon the two women were captured by some NativeAmerican scouts whom Burgoyne had employed as an advance force. McNeil was delivered safely to British hands, but McCrea was later discovered dead, several bullet wounds in her body and scalped. The culprits took the scalp back to Burgoyne. The murder and scalping sent a shock of horror through the colonies; it was even felt in England, where in the House of Commons Edmund Burke denounced the use of “Indian” allies.
In America the deed galvanized patriotic sentiment, swung waverers against the British, and encouraged a tide of enlistments that helped end Burgoyne’s invasion.
View the Military Service of Comic, Writer, Actor, Producer, Director:
Cpl Mel Brooks
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/336110
Short Bio: Singlehandedly won World War II! Okay, that not true, but lots of our boys in uniform might not have made it home without Brooks’s help. At 17, young Melvin Kaminsky joined the Army Corps of Engineers and was assigned to the 1104th Engineer Combat Group — just in time to be shipped over for the Battle of the Bulge. His unit fought through Europe, building bridges, destroying pillboxes, and occasionally fought as infantry. Brooks, née Kominsky, had the duty of defusing landmines in front of the advancing army.
Espionage was big business during the American Civil War. Both sides had thousands of spies including hundreds of women. Many of the spy rings were located in each of the capital cities, Washington D. C. and Richmond, sending valuable information back to their respective governments, and each side had a number of independent spies working for them. Some of these independent spies were under contract, but others did their dangerous work out of love for their country.
To be sure, it was a very dangerous business and inevitable, some were caught and often the penalty was hanging. Others were placed in prison or released. Of all these thousands of spies, there was one who many Civil War historian considered the most productive espionage agents of the entire war. Her name was Mary Bowser, a freed black slave working in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born in Richmond, Virginia, as a slave to John Van Lew, a wealthy merchant. When he died in 1843, his wife, son and daughter Elizabeth freed his slaves. They also bought everyone in the slave’s family in order to set them free as well. Although a free woman, Mary stayed on as a servant in the Van Lew household until the late 1850s.
During those years, Miss Elizabeth Van Lew, a well-known member of Richmond, Virginia, society continued to live with her widowed mother in a three-story mansion in the Confederate capital. Educated in the North, Van Lew took pride in her Richmond roots, but she fervently opposed slavery and secession, became increasingly aware that Mary had exceptional intelligence. Being a staunch abolitionist and Quaker, she sent Mary to the Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia to be educated.
Mary returned from Philadelphia after graduating so that she could marry Wilson Bowser, a free black man. The ceremony was held on April 16, 1861, just four days after Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter, thereby initiating the Civil War. Even though it was a marriage between two former slaves, most of the wedding party and parishioners of the church were white. The couple lived on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. There is no record of any children. Even after her marriage, Mary stayed in close contact with the Van Lew family and often conversations would be about intellectual and political views.
Despite her abolitionist sentiments and her close ties to the Union, Miss Van Lew was a prominent figure in the Richmond political scene which made her key in the establishment of a spy system in the Confederate capital. Van Lew would use a guise which was always distracted and muttered when she spoke in order for people to think she was unbalanced and therefore not someone to take seriously. She was given the nickname “Crazy Bet.” She would regularly visit the Libby Prison with food and medicine, and helped escapees of all kinds, hiding them in a secret room in her mansion. However her biggest accomplishment in espionage was utilizing Mary Elizabeth Bowser in one of the greatest feats of espionage in the Civil War.
Because of Bowser’s intelligence and photographic memory, Van Lew decided to make Bowser a spy to infiltrate the confederacy. In order to get access to top-secret information, Bowser became “Ellen Bond,” a slow-thinking, but able, servant. Van Lew was able to have her work at functions held by Varina Davis, the wife of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. Bowser was eventually hired full-time and worked in the Davis household until just before the end of the war. She worked as a servant, cleaning and serving meals and since slaves were trained to seem invisible, she was able to get incredible amounts of information simply by doing her work. The assumption was that slaves could not read or write, nor understand the complex political conversations being held. However, due to Bowser’s education and keen perception, she was able to read and remember any papers that were left around in Jefferson Davis’ study and report the information back to Van Lew all that was going on in Davis’ house.
Jefferson Davis had become aware that there was a leak in his house, but for a while he did not realize it was Bowser. Soon suspicion fell on Bowser. She chose to flee in January 1865, but she did not go quietly. Her last act as a spy was an unsuccessful attempt to burn down the Confederate White House.
As with most Union spies who served in Richmond during the war, all records of Mary’s work were destroyed by the War Department to protect her from the retaliation she would have faced if the extent of her service were uncovered. Because of this, very little specific information is known about her activities during the war aside that a significant amount made its way to General Ulysses S. Grant and influenced his decisions from 1863-1864.
After the war ended, Mary Bowser spent time serving as a teacher for freed slaves, and gave at least one speech in which she told the story of her time as a spy in the Confederate White House. For the speech, given in the fall of 1865 in New York, she used the name, “Richmonia Richards.” Later, in 1867, she had a chance meeting with Harriet Beecher Stowe in Georgia, and told her story again. At that time, she was teaching under the name Mary J. R. Richards.
After 1867, no one seems to know what happened to her. She seems to have effectively disappeared like a good spy would…
However, there is no doubt she served exceptionally well in an exceedingly dangerous position. In 1995, the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, honored her effort with these words:
“Ms. Bowser succeeded in a highly dangerous mission to the great benefit of the Union effort. She was one of the highest placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War. Her information greatly enhanced the Union’s conduct of the war. Jefferson Davis never discovered the leak in his household staff, although he knew the Union somehow kept discovering Confederate plans.”
View the military service of singer:
FltOff Gene Autry US Army Air Corps (Served 1942-1946)
Short Bio: Known as the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry, in World War II Autry enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 and became a Tech. Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps. Holding a private pilot’s license, he was determined to become an aviator and earned his service pilot rating on 21 June 1944, serving as a C-109 transport pilot with the rank of Filght Officer. Assigned to a unit of the Air Transport Command.