Editorial: Honor and grieve with the Coast Guard

On the theme of “Coasting Through Winter,” this weekend for the Homer Winter Carnival we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Coast Guard in Homer. On Jan. 5, 1969, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ironwood, the first Coast Guard cutter to be homeported here, arrived in Homer.

Over the past half-century, we have had the honor of being home to generations of Coasties. Through their service, they have been not only fellow mariners keeping us safe at sea, but our neighbors and friends. Many have even retired here, using their skills, knowledge and experience to build this town.

The death last week in an industrial accident of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, 35, of Mahopac, New York, reminds us that Coast Guard service sometimes comes with sacrifice. A crew member of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, Kozloski had been in the Coast Guard for 17 years. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

The unfortunate death of Kozloski casts a pall over this weekend’s celebration. U.S. Coast Guard crew will be the Grand Marshals of the parade starting at noon Saturday on Pioneer Avenue. When the Coasties march in the parade, it will be a time to cheer for them, for all they do, but it will also be a time to mourn. We share their grief. In honoring Coast Guard history in Homer, we hope we can ease that grief.

Our “Years Ago” column this week notes another bit of Coast Guard history. Twenty years ago, the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Roanoke Island responded to a fishing boat, the Kavkaz, that had capsized and washed up on the Port Graham beach. When crew investigated, they heard a fishermen tapping on the hull from inside.

Through an engine room slippery with diesel fuel, they found one fisherman still alive and another dead. With the help of local villagers, they cut a hole in the Kavkaz and hauled out Tony Sanarovw. His brother, Fred, didn’t make it.

That rescue illustrates what the Coast Guard does and what it means to this town. Hickory’s primary mission is to maintain and repair navigational aids. The Green Can, as the buoy off the Homer Spit is called? That’s their work. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, the Island Class Cutter successor to Roanoke Island, patrols the seas and responds to tragedies. The Marine Safety Detachment Homer inspects vessels and makes sure mariners run safe, well equipped vessels that will return them home or give them the tools to survive mishaps.

The official motto of the U.S. Coast Guard is “Semper Paratus,” “always ready.” Their unofficial motto is, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski’s death shows the unfortunate truth of that motto. His passing exemplifies the duty and sacrifice of the men and women we’re proud to call neighbors.

Coasties, know this about Homer. We honor you, we value you, we celebrate you, and we grieve with you.

– Michael Armstrong, editor