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Seaman Recruit Jedediah Smith, my son, during his Coast Guard bootcamp off base run. Company Zulu 185.
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My nephew CG Petty Officer Taylor Sweeney at the helm of Rimshot. His first time under sail.
There are a lot of thoughts going through the old noggin' this morning as Nancy and I get ready to leave for Cape May, NJ and my Son, Jed's graduation from Coast Guard boot camp. To say that I am proud of Jed is an understatement. We are a Coast Guard family. Jed is joining Taylor, my nephew, and two of his cousins in the service. As a sailor myself, the Coast Guard has a very high place in my heart and mind. Their service is selfless, and no matter what a person thinks about the military, they truly are a force for good. 
Last weekend I raced my boat "Changes in Attitude," in the 12th annual Frostbite Race at Watauga Lake as a member of the Watauga Sailing Club. Note I said sailing, not yacht, club. The emphasis is on sailing, not status. Improving your skills, sailing well and racing hard are the only requirements. Respect is earned and can not be gotten by position, status, wealth or words. I have a lot to learn but there are willing teachers and I am committed to being the best sailor I can be.
Anyway, the race is held no matter the wind, weather or temperature. On New Years' Day it was 45 degrees, driving rain and 20 - 30 knot winds as we started on the 3-mile course. With a crew of five other sailors on board we did our best. The responsibility for their safety weighed heavily on this rookie skipper's mind as we fought through the wind. On a day when nearly all of the 6 boats participating showed their bottoms at some point and we all were nearly knocked over, I got a taste of what my son has committed to take on. As we neared the finish line the boat ahead of me was hit by a gust of wind and his rig gave way. The entire rig, sails, mast, boom and stays went in the water. The skipper was thrown forward and cut his head. 
At that point things changed from an exciting challenge to a boat in distress. To make a long story shorter than it could be, we, among others went to his aid and all turned out as well as could be expected. This was in 20 - 30 knot winds and seas of maybe two feet. What if it had been miles out in the ocean, 50 knot winds and 30 foot seas. That is what the Coast Guard does for a living. That is what my son and the members of Zulu 185, his boot camp company,  have signed on for. Jed's goal is to crew on one of the 47 foot motor lifeboats. Not for the faint of heart, from everything I know about that craft. All of them have my undying respect and I am proud that Jedediah has chosen this service.
Another element of the experience of having a son in Coast Guard Boot, is the community that has grown around these young Seamen and Women. Unlike my father George, I never was active duty military. I was in the US Naval Sea Cadet ROTC program in high school but blew out my knee playing football before going to boot and the Navy was no longer interested in me. In 1969 I was not all that interested in the Infantry. So, when Jed graduates on Friday, he and my father, a bombardier in the 15th Air Corps and wounded severely over Germany in 1944, will share a bond that I will never know. Strangely, I am jealous. That kind of comradeship produces memories that are life long. 
But, this is a much different world that Dad faced when he enlisted. It is a faster world that is very different than that of the Greatest Generation.  We have Facebook, twitter, the internet and all forms of social media to make use of. Sometimes we use it for good and other times not so good. It is a wonderful thing when all these technical advancements are used to support very human thoughts and feelings. 
As a parent I have been allowed to participate in a Facebook page started by the Coast Guard that is just for the families of Zulu 185. The bond that has been formed as we all have worried about our loved ones is one that I can share. Dad said that he wrote rarely when in boot camp and phone calls were out of the question. Jed was able to write several times but they were always hurried because if anyone thinks Coast Guard boot is a cake walk, they should know that the USCG uses the US Marine model. Nuf said. Anyhoo, a community of people, most of whom have never met, has formed in support of these kids and is one of the more unique experiences I have participated. Because no one who is not family or assisting with passing on photos and news, which several Coast Guard vets and wives have done, can participate, we have been free to voice our fears, thoughts, hopes and a whole bunch of other stuff on line. It has been an illuminating experience in how the internet can assist in the creation of tightly woven communities with like interests. In this case the like interests are our children, husbands, wives, lovers and their children. We will all meet at a dinner on Thursday night. I expect there will be hugs, tears, laughter and stories as we brag about our newly minted Coasties. When I think of all the vets of years gone by who experienced a much less coordinated support system, I know how lucky we are. This is one example of the Internet and Social Media truly being useful. To the members of Zulu 185 and my new Coast Guard family, I offer my deepest respect, support and love. We all have the opportunity to form community in this way. We just need good reasons. This is one. 
Godspeed.
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My nephew Taylor serves on one of these ships I believe. This buoy tender is stationed in Homer, AK.
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This Higgins Boat landed troops on Omaha Beach. Many Coast Guardsmen were at the helm of these on D-Day. Much of the boat is plywood.
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This is the Time Bandit, of Deadliest Catch fame, heading out to sea from Homer. Think these guys love the Coast Guard?
 
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    Life 
    On 
    A Twisted Trail,
    A Blog
    By H W. "Bill" Smith

    Writing is something that I have always loved doing and anyone  who knows me knows that I have more than my share of opinions on a variety of subjects. 
    My goal is to write about the history, music, culture, life and events that shape the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains where I live... and anything else that tickles my fancy. Join me on this ride down "A Twisted Trail."

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