PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents ET2 David Hendrick’s legacy of his military service from 1960 to 1964. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Coast Guard.
When I lost my student deferment at age 23 in 1959, I was ranked 1-A in the draft. I saw the handwriting on the wall and started thinking more about getting drafted into the Army. I didn’t want to be “Dog Face” and live in a Pup Tent.
I asked for advice from my parents, my Uncle Herman, and my brother, who had been in the Navy during WWII and in the Coast Guard. My brother advised me to join the Coast Guard. I eventually visited my local Coast Guard recruiter in San Diego.
I took many tests, and listened to him advise me on Coast Guard life and the schools I could attend if qualified after Boot Camp. While he graded my tests, I sat there and thought things over. My test results put me in the 98th percentile of test-takers. I told him I wanted to be an Electronic Technician. He said he couldn’t guarantee I would get that school after I graduated from Boot Camp, but he thought I had a good chance.
The Army was only two years, and the Coast Guard would be four years, but I thought I could be of more use in the Coast Guard those four years and get a good education. I told the recruiter I would think about it and let him know soon. My decision came sooner than later because, in two weeks, I received my draft notice from Uncle Sam.
I then drove to my recruiter’s office and handed him my draft notice. He made a call to my draft board and told them the Coast Guard wanted me. The draft board told him the Coast Guard could have me!
The recruiter set up a reporting time for me to report to boot camp that made it possible for me to attend the next starting date for “A” School in Groton, Connecticut, when I graduated from Boot Camp in 12 weeks.
On graduation day, my CO announced that I would be going to Electronic Technician School for 30 weeks. That was a happy day!
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 wanted to be an Electronic Technician in the Coast Guard, so I worked hard to do well in the 30 weeks “A” school in Groton, Connecticut. I ended up ranked third in my class of 15, 0.5 points out of second place. I goofed off the last two weeks!
After completing my four-year obligation, I chose not to reenlist, even though my CO recommended me for reenlistment. I went back to college for one semester and then entered the civilian workforce as an Electronics Technician. I didn’t have any trouble finding a job with my Coast Guard training.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
My first duty station as an ET3 was at the SAR base on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California.
Here I learned about the Coast Guard’s humanitarian operations of saving lives. I got to fly to Catalina Island to repair the radio beacon on the island. It was needed to keep the mariners safe in bad weather around the island. My work gave me a new respect for the Coast Guards mission of saving lives.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
The Courier was a Voice of America Relay Station that transmitted behind the Iron Curtain to the Communist block Countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The ship broadcast Voice of America programs in nine (9) languages, 10 hours a day, and seven days a week.
I was stationed on the Courier for 18 months and experienced the Greek culture and explored the 1200-year-old Greek ruins on the Island. At one time, I lived in an apartment in the Crusader City of Rhodes with another ET. Because the ET’s had a crazy work schedule, we were allowed to have an apartment on the Island because it was impossible to sleep on the ship. I lived where the Knights of Rhodes once lived!
The Cutter Courier was my favorite duty station by far. After three years of service, I was promoted to ET-2/c on the Courier. That meant more pay and more responsibility on the ship. I had NO least favorite duty stations. I even enjoyed Boot Camp in Alameda, California! I thought it was fun!
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
I still have fond memories that I reflect on to this day about my 18-month deployment on the Courier and the Island of Rhodes. I call my time on Rhodes as my paid vacation by the Coast Guard. A buddy in the engine room that provided power to the transmitters had the same duty cycle as I did. We were both Second Class Petty Officers.
After I was denied a two-week leave to visit Egypt because I was “Too valuable to be let go from the ship.” So, we decided to take a boat ride to Turkey to talk to the tourists, drink a few beers, and eat some Turkish chow. We took a bus ride, saw two Turkish cities, and had a great time. We got back on the ship in time for our next watch. Today I couldn’t visit Turkey as I did in 1963! I have fond memories of my 10-mile boat ride to Turkey.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
I am proud of my ability to troubleshoot electronic gear in the Coast Guard, from Radar sets to Radio beacons. My CO had enough confidence in my knowledge that he sent me off on an assignment without any supervision. That was true in San Pedro, Rhodes Greece, on the USCGC Courier, and at the SAR base in San Diego, California.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
My Unit Commendation Ribbon, is the most memorable.
We all worked hard on the Cutter Courier to keep the Voice of America transmitters on the air. The ship was on station for 12 years from 1952 to 1964. I also worked hard to do a good job, and for that, I received my Good Conduct ribbon and medal for my work.
List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.
ET1 Dombek at the SAR station on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California. He was a great teacher. He was a great help in showing me the ropes when I was starting as an ET3. We had many good laughs together. At my last duty station at the San Diego Air Station, ET1 Dombek greeted me as I walked into the ET shop in one of the aircraft hangers. I had fun talking to Dombek about my time in San Pedro and my tour of duty on the Cutter Courier. He wanted to swap orders with me so he could go to Rhodes, Greece, in my place. I told him, “No Way!”
EN2 Bob on the USCGC Courier. He worked in the AC Power room and kept the power flowing. We drank a few beers together and took a trip to Turkey. Bob and I became good friends while I was stationed on the Courier. We were on the same duty cycle, and he worked hard in the AC Power room to keep the power flowing so we could keep all three transmitters on the air without any “Off Air Time.” Any time a transmitter was not transmitting cost the VOA $1,000 a minute! We often made the rounds of different bars and restaurants when we got off duty late at night. Bob and I made the trip to Turkey for a day to get away from it all! Turkey was 10 miles from Rhodes.
ET1 Ken Norton was a good friend on the Cutter Courier. We drank a few beers together also. We kept in touch by E-Mail for many months until he died from cancer in 1995. I shared an apartment in the Old City of Rhodes with Ken and his English bird for a few months until I got an apartment by myself.
When I arrived at the SAR base at the San Diego Air Station, ET1 Dombek was there to greet me, and we reminisced about my time in San Pedro and my duty on the Cutter Courier.
I was in E-mail contact with Ken Norton until he died in 1995.
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?
At week 15 of my 30 week ET school, I come down with a digestive problem on a Sunday, so the corpsman sent me to the Coast Guard Academy Hospital for observation. He thought I might have had appendicitis. By Tuesday, the doctors said no appendicitis, just an irritated gut. They gave me a bland diet plan for a week and sent me back to “A” school.
Well, I flunked the Friday test and got chewed out by the Chief ET. At this point, I was second in my class. I was confined to the base for a week. I said, “But Chief, I was sick in the hospital for three days!” His response was, “That’s no excuse!” I was still in second place the next week.
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?
When I received my Honorable Discharge from the Coast Guard in 1966, I worked in the civilian workforce as an Electronics Technician. I never had a problem getting a job because of my Coast Guard training.
I also enrolled in a two-year college to get my AS Degree in Engineering and Electronic Technology, which led to a better paying job. In 1990, I went back to San Diego State University to finish my degree in Industrial Technology. I finally graduated with a BS degree, which led to a good-paying job in Electronics and Computer-Aided Drafting at a local company.
I am now retired and spend my time on Ham Radio, keeping up with the hobby. Keeping my home in ship shape condition also keeps me busy. I am an avid reader of military history and what is going on in today’s Coast Guard. Semper Paratus!
What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
I don’t belong to any military associations. I receive a newsletter from the Courier Association.
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
When I enlisted in the Coast Guard, I was expected to be on-time reporting to my next duty station, starting with Boot Camp in Alameda, California. When I had liberty, I was expected to be back on the base, on time.
The service expected me to fly by air to “A” school, to arrive in time for the start of the class. The same was expected of me when I flew from San Diego to New York and found my way to the Staten Island SAR base to await my orders to Rhodes, Greece, and arrive on time to join the Cutter Courier.
To this day, I arrive early for an appointment because I was programmed to be early and not late. I was never late for my watch on the Courier. I miss the good times I had with my shipmates in the Coast Guard.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Coast Guard?
I enjoyed my experience at Boot Camp. Jumping off the tower into the pool isn’t that hard or scary. I just jumped in. No Problem! Learn to swim before you report to Boot Camp.
Do what you are told. Don’t talk back, and listen to your CO and DI! Have fun at Boot Camp. I thought it was fun. I gained 10 pounds from all the running, exercising, and High Porting around the grinder with the M-1 rifle. My Boot Camp experience lasted 12 weeks. I enjoyed it. Have Fun.
Pay attention in class. Everything you learn will be useful in your career. Take notes, and read your Blue Jacket Manual. Make up your mind early on the job you want in the Coast Guard. I chose Electronic Technician school and worked hard for my goal. Do your best at your first duty station. Make a good impression right away.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
I enjoy reading about other Coasties careers and military service. TWS made me think back on my career and brought back many good memories.