PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents SA Lawrence Worthen’s legacy of his military service from 1972 to 1975. 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.
It certainly beat out the Army or Marines! But I didn’t think I was smart enough for the Air Force, and besides that, my retired Air Force Master Sergent dad retired to Southern California, so I naturally became a beach and water lover. The US Coast Guard fit like a glove!
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 a go-getter; I loved sea life. I made rank quickly, and my Chief, Chief Horsely, liked my aggressiveness. I went from deckhand/swabbie/paint chipper/barnacle scraper to learning to operate our 40′ boom, lifting buoys to the deck and lowering them back after completion. It was nice watching my shipmates do their magic on that buoy deck.
We steamed to Hawaii for refit, and I’m thinking 8 to 10 months after I boarded her. Landed at Sand Island and sent the Basswood to dry docks for refit. Our jobs had changed. Now we were fire watch on board as the welders cut out the old and welded in the new complete interior redesign! First, watch a few shipmates and me. Halfway through my shift, my eyes were stinging, and I couldn’t open them without extreme pain. Flash burn! The outfit didn’t give us eye protection. I was sent to the base scullery to wash dishes. This ain’t working out anymore, but it is still Hawaii! Long story short. Sailing back to Guam, I requested a week’s leave to bury my Grandmother, who had just passed away. Denied. Well, I’ll have a nice unspent paycheck upon birthing back on Guam. Stepped off the ship and didn’t look back.
Grabbed the first flight home and became A.W.O.L. I Buried Grandma and hitchhiked north to turn myself in Seattle, Washington. Was returned to duty and court marshal, now restricted to ship. Had appendicitis and was transported to the base hospital, where they removed the appendix. Then off to the base brig for two months and busted to permanent E-1. Well, I blew it! Transferred to S.A.R. Station Sandwich, Cape Cod, Mass. It was a very picturesque and great crew, but because of my situation, I couldn’t see making a career as an E-1. I asked and received an early out due to the R.I.F. because Viet Nam was ending.
I must admit my short stint was adventurous. Now, after 7 Carnival cruises under our belts, I can rest assured that our U.S. Coast Guard is on the job and keeping navigation safe because I’ve been there and know what we were all about.
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?
Oh yeah, baby! I think we were having a drought on some of our sister islands and were water delivery for some islands, mainly because we had LORAN navigation aids station on them. Along with the natives in grass skirts and no tops, really at my age? Holy cow, now I’m loving life in paradise! Yap, I believe. But I also remember delivering to other islands, but I can’t remember names. Getting old now and a bit forgetful.
But the real important mission was the search and rescue/recovery of a lost-at-sea landing craft where the captain had passed away while underway, and the two-man crew had no idea how to navigate. The Basswood and our sister ship, the Mallow, or was it the Buttonwood? I forget. Getting old and forgetful these days. I think we were out for about 8-10 days and found them in the middle of the night. I just can’t remember the dates for that important event and cannot find anything in historical records. If anybody out there can help with that, I gladly appreciate the feedback.
Life changing? Absolutely! Especially for the second tour of duty at Cape Cod SAR Station Sandwich, Mass. It definitely changed my life in my water rescue knowledge and hoping to use some for the new younger generation coming here on our large lake. No fatalities on my watch!
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
Some close calls but no life-ending events or threats except the possibility of fire or sinking, but I wasn’t worried about it.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
The Basswood by far, with Hawaii being half of my tour on accident! The off-ship adventures were fantastic! Sometimes ending up in jail, and sometimes not! We were a young and kind of wild bunch! They nicknamed us the Black sheep of the fleet! I personally had the best time of my life but didn’t realize it at the time!
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
Almost too many to list, the first time the plane door opened and the fishy-smelling, very hot, and humid air blasted in, seeing my ship for the first time, the bare-breasted beauties on Yap, Ulithi Atoll on the way to Hawaii, watching Hawaii slowly, very slowly approaching, tossing a line to my boot camp shipmate and exchanging island products. Oahu’s north shore, the Hawaiian cliff we scaled, Hickam Air Force base that allowed us their great little rooms with maid service, the crater festival, the Marine brig, the helicopter training on the Cape, the rented beach home on the Cape, my third story station room when the kitchen caught on fire, the lobster fishing boathouse next door that we checked on our rounds for Friday lobster dinner, I’m thinking I covered as far as good memories. There are definitely bad ones that I don’t want to mention.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
Navigation knowledge along with search and rescue?
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?
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
Chief Horsley and Mike Scully. Both for getting me trained as a boom operator.
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.
Oh my god, is my memory ever fading?
C. J. Buckman
Kelly Rose or was it Baliff
Jeeeeeeze! Drawing a blank, but 50-some years ago?
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?
My other passion became carpentry, which somehow became a concrete finisher working for first the Army forming and pouring concrete because everything they have is heavy requiring concrete storage, then on to State Prison as a concrete finishing carpenter doing basically the same, not due to weight but for security purposes. And a PERS retirement.
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?
The time we got drunk started a food fight at the Copa Cabana, and we were tossed into the paddy wagon where the officers had two big tree crabs clinging to the wire! We blasted out of that when we saw them. The officers got a good laugh outta that one, as did we afterward.
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?
My ability to think clearly. Respect the U.S. constitution and patriotism. I raised my kids to think and see clearly as well. They are both actively employed; both served in the military; my son is retired. The other child is a Master Sargent who is still working due to age and retiring soon. Musta worked.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Coast Guard?
Eyes open, stay safe, Semper Paratus.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
I’m still seeking information, mainly on dates the USCG WLB 388 BASSWOOD did the search and rescue of the lost at-sea landing craft that the Basswood located. Please help me find this information.