The Coast Guard Foundation recognized mission and individual excellence on Thursday, October 10 in New York City at the 33rd Annual Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard, a national awards dinner which raised more than $1 million. The honors for heroism and professionalism in the line of duty were awarded to the crew of the cutter MOHAWK for unit excellence, and AST2 Abram A. Heller, a rescue swimmer, for individual heroic action.
The dinner was MC’d by 13-time Emmy Winner, Al Roker, who knows the importance of the Coast Guard’s mission, since he serves as executive producer of the docu-series Coast Guard Alaska and Coast Guard Florida.
Two long-standing Coast Guard Foundation supporters helped make the dinner a great success. Bouchard Transportation and Kirby Corporation were the evening’s Hero Sponsors, for which we are very grateful.
The evening honored the many years of vital support to the Coast Guard Foundation from Kirby Corporation, who was represented by its Chairman and CEO, Joseph H. Pyne. Mr. Pyne, a member of the Coast Guard Foundation board of trustees, has experienced firsthand the value of those who wear the Coast Guard uniform. He championed the Leadership 44 campaign, which built new sail training vessels for Coast Guard Academy cadets. Mr. Pyne also visited Coast Guard bases throughout Maine, and sponsored Shipmate projects in the region that provide morale and exercise gear not covered by federal spending.
The program featured remarks from Captain of the Port, Gordon Loebl, as well as video messages from Vice Admiral Robert Parker, commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, and Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp, who were unable to attend the event.
Adm. Papp spoke of his long personal connection to the Coast Guard Foundation, and especially the New York Dinner. When he was a young lieutenant in 1982, Papp won the national award from his time as commanding officer of the Cutter RED BEECH.
“The challenges we face are real, but I’m optimistic, because I know our value to the nation is enduring. I’m also optimistic because of all of you. The Coast Guard and its people do fantastic work,”Adm. Papp said.
He continued: “You know that I’m tremendously proud of that, but we simply can’t do it alone. And it’s through the hard work and generosity of the Coast Guard Foundation that we’re able to take care of our Coast Guard people in the manner that they truly deserve. I want to thank you so much for all that you do for all of us.”
AST2 Abram Heller was recognized for individual heroic actions for a night rescue of the coast of Hawaii involving seven sailors who had been forced into the ocean after their sailboat sank. Selflessly, AST2 Heller volunteered to remain in the water with the remaining survivors, while they waited for additional Coast Guard support to arrive. Prior to leaving the scene the helicopter crew decided to deploy its own survival raft, into which Heller loaded the three remaining survivors. Heller’s presence in the raft helped the fraught sailors remain calm as he continually worked with a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to guide a 47-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Kauai to their location.
Heller’s selflessness, technical expertise, and physical strength were critical in the success of this rescue case. His instinctive, disciplined actions and decisive leadership on scene saved seven lives that night.
The crew of the Cutter MOHAWK was awarded for unit excellence for a series of maritime law enforcement missions during the period of May 1, 2012 to April 20, 2013, which resulted in the seizure of 1,032 kilograms of cocaine, and 600 pounds of marijuana, which held an estimated street value of $35 million. MOHAWK worked in conjunction with aircraft from Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Navy.
These heroes deserve our thanks. The 33rd Annual Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard is a small gesture of gratitude for the men and women who stand the watch day in and day out, keeping our shores and borders safe.