On a sunny, calm day with fair seas on Kachemak Bay, about 150 people attended a memorial service for Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski last Friday at the Seafarer’s Memorial on the Homer Spit.
Kozloski, 35, of Mahopac, New York, was a crew member on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory. He died in an industrial accident on Jan. 31, 2019, at the Hickory buoy yard when a crane tipped over and hit him. Those attending included crew members and families of the Hickory, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, the Marine Safety Detachment, Homer, District 17 officials, and local retired U.S. Coast Guard crew members. Firefighters and medics from the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Kachemak Emergency Services, and Homer Police Department officers in dress uniform also paid their respects. Many wore memorial ribbons made from a manila knot wrapped around a loop of fabric from the blue utility uniform of the Coast Guard. Standing at a podium inside the Seafarer’s Memorial and addressing the crowd spread out on the patio before him, Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., Coast Guard District 17 Commander, made the opening remarks.
“In this moment our prayers and thoughts should be all about the family, the crew, and this community,” Bell said. “The outpouring of sympathy, kind heartedness, generosity, and support for Mike and his shipmates has been awe inspiring.”
From his family, Bell expressed his support to Kozloski’s widow, Brie, and their children, and to the crew of the Hickory.
“You are all in this together,” Bell said. “Find peace and solace in your shipmates. And for the community of Homer, thanks. Thank you for your continued support in this place we can all call home. God bless the Kozloski family. God bless our community here in Homer and God bless the United States Coast Guard.”
Hickory Captain Lt. Cmdr. Adam Leggett spoke of how he had come to know Kozloski and how the chief warrant officer had helped make him welcome to Homer when Leggett took command last summer.
“It’s kind of said that being captain is the loneliest job on the ship,” Leggett said. “We all need somebody. Mike was the guy who took me under his wing.”
Kozloski helped him learn how to be an Alaskan, Leggett said.
“He was the first guy who taught me how to hook a halibut,” he said. “He was the first guy who took me hunting.”
In the face of Kozloski’s death, Leggett said he has tried to focus on gratitude.
“I’m above and beyond grateful to have the time with Mike I did,” he said. “… I’m above and beyond grateful to Homer. This is a town like no other. … Solidarity will be our resiliency. Every time we sail we will remember him.”
“You may not remember many words today, but you will remember the people who were here beside you as you hug one another, kiss one another, share words with one another,”said Chaplain Gary Pepper. “Scripture tells us there is no greater love than this, that a man laid down his life for his friends. Michael was a friend of so many, and he will continue to be as his loss perpetuates to reach everyone’s lives here.”
“Here where many people will cast their nets to catch fish, Michael cast his love on everyone that was here, and it was well caught,” Pepper continued as fishermen unloaded their catch at the nearby docks. “… The purpose here today is to give you comfort, to give you peace, and to celebrate the life, the legacy, and the memories of boatswain.”
Services for Kozloski closed with the tolling of bells. As Hickory Seaman James Cloutier stood by the Seafarer’s Memorial bell, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Charles Bowman said the final words for his crewmate.
“Bos’n, may you rest in peace and know that your honor will be carried on to us all,” Bowman said. “We relieve you of the watch. …We have the watch from here. End of watch, Jan. 31, 2019. Fair winds and following seas.”
Cloutier rang the bell twice.
“Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski, departing,” Bowman said.
Cloutier rang the bell a final time.