PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents EM3 Douglas McQuaid’s legacy of his military service from 1971 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.
William McCrystal (a good family friend) and I worked together when I was a senior in high school. He used to tell stories of his time in the service. Vietnam was still going on, and I had just received my draft number. Rather than getting drafted I picked my service and joined the USCG at the end of the summer after graduation.
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 an Electrician from the time I returned from Antarctica till the time of discharge.
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?
No combat unless you want to classify navigating the South Atlantic during a tropical storm off the coast of Africa in a round bottom ship for 2 weeks as combat.
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.
As I mentioned in the previous question, the storm in the South Atlantic was a revelation. As we were returning home from the Deepfreeze Operation, we were docked in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. We received orders to aid a Japanese icebreaker stuck in the ice below South Africa. We replenished and headed out of ESE. Unfortunately, a storm left the coast of Africa, heading NNW from the horn. Huge swells and wind-driven seas made that time overly concerning for two plus weeks. A foxhole in Vietnam seemed almost safe. Then if something happened, they might find your body! Out in the ocean, though, if Davy Jones claimed you there was no return, that was quite the revelation for a 19-year-old.
A little over a week in, we received info the Japanese Breaker got free, and we were to return home. The Southwind turned about and voyaged back into the storm to find our way home. Thankfully the tropics were kinder to us!
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
Every assignment was memorable from boot camp on. I was lucky after boot camp to be assigned to the USCGC Southwind (Deepfreeze “71”), Then Governors Island Training for electrician, USCGC Mohican (Tugboat in the Chesapeake Bay), Loran Station Biorka, Alaska, and finally Buzzards Bay entrance light tower. Everyone has stories!
The least favorite would have been the prospect of what was coming next if I had re-enlisted. Weather Stations were still prevalent in the day, and the chance of doing circles in the North Atlantic wasn’t appealing.
So I left the service for college, where a few friends were. Also, it was not popular at the time; the general public looked down upon service personnel. That became a different sort of battle a lot of us fought.
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
Coming out of a small town into Boot Camp with a diverse group of boys (soon to become men)!
The whole Deepfreeze Operation for a 19-year-old. Foreign countries, wide open oceans, the Antarctic, and the power of Mother Nature!
An explosion in engine room 2 on USCGC Southwind on return from Deepfreeze 71 in the South Atlantic.
Time on a Tugboat!
The solitude and magnificence of Alaska!
Simply being a “Light House Keeper”
The appreciation of service by sailors, those who venture out into the oceans for life and adventure.
Knowing the Coastie would be there when things go bad!
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
Medals are nice, but the knowledge of making a positive difference in a time of national discord was personally satisfying. Knowing my time set me up for who I became, different from the boy that left the small town!
Not sure any of us joined the Coast Guard at that time for the possibility of a chest full of medals. Nor do we reject the ones we earned! We were there to do a job and do it well!
So, I guess it would be the first and last medals that are the most memorable! The National Defense and then the Good Conduct medals.
We all took an oath and then completed the job with honor!
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?
It would have to be the Antarctic Service Medal.
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
Actually, it would be the person whose stories open the possibility of the Coast Guard, Bill McCrystal. He was a friend when I was 18 and getting out of high school.
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.
Unfortunately, the ’70s were not the time of social media; names and addresses weren’t exchanged. Even if they were, we all moved on! Though personal relations didn’t last the memories of the events stay fresh. At times shared with new friends and relatives who knew you were gone during those days, just not knowing where.
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?
Neptune’s initiation into Davie Jones Locker after passing through the tropics and the equator.
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 started in electronics, went on to management, and I worked for USPS, and now retired.
What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
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?
I realize how much more my fellow servicemen gave up during the time I was in. It was not a very popular thing to do. I was often spat upon by our fellow American because of Vietnam. I would hope that any conflict would never become as political as that again and that the young men and women would never go through what my generation and those before me went through at the time.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Coast Guard?
With the fine mess, our politicians have got our economy in at this point I would look hard and long before getting out.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
Just starting so can’t answer this one yet.