Last Thursday, November 19th., five Coast Guard Auxiliarists spent most of the day perched on mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We were scattered along a 200 mile stretch of the Oregon coast listening on our Marine VHF radios. We were there to intercept any distress calls while the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 system in that area was taken down for scheduled maintenance. However, on that day, we didn't "win" in the sense that the system wasn't taken down, and we were never given the opportunity to perform the mission that we had been tasked to do. That was not the real reason we didn't "win" however. The reason the system did not go down for maintenance was that there was a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission in progress by the time we arrived at our respective locations. Two men had gone missing
overnight while fishing from the cliffs about 20 miles South of where I was positioned. The Coast Guard dispatched two different helos
and a beach rig from Motor Lifeboat Station Siuslaw River
. The Lane County Search and Rescue, Sheriffs, and the local fire department were also involved in the search. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were too severe to allow the search teams to actually get down to where the helo had spotted a fishing rod and two backpacks. The search was called off in the afternoon and the Rescue 21 maintenance was postponed. On the one hand, I suppose I could have been a little miffed that I had to drive 200 miles round trip and spend all day essentially doing nothing. That was not the case, however. What I felt was a profound sadness for the two missing men and their families and friends. Listening to the father of the younger victim on the radio asking for help was gut wrenching. At the end of the day, I and my fellow Auxiliarists went home and at the very least, we had good practice deploying our assets. The two fishermen did not get to go home and there are empty places around tables and in the hearts of their loved ones. In the end, that is why we are the Coast Guard "Guardians." We try to save them all, but sometimes we can't - and that hurts.
Here are a few photos from where I was perched that day. Nothing particularly thrilling. There aren't any people in the photos as I was alone up there. That is the way it usually is for communications types. We don't get the heroic action shots like the rescue swimmers, but the part we play is vital none-the-less.