military service

A Memorial Day Tribute

When the storm clouds form on the horizon of this country, you can always count on the strong and brave Armed Forces of the United States. Thanks to all our Veterans.

I think it’s quite appropriate this Memorial Day to recognize all the current members of our Armed Forces and those who served so generously in the past. That includes the United States Navy, Army, Air Force, as well as the United States Coast Guard and the Marine Corps. Though all branches merit attention, because this is a blog about pirates, mariners, and the sea, and because of space constraints, I’m limiting this piece to those military branches that served primarily on the sea.

The following is a little quiz to see how much you know about the Armed Forces that have protected your Homeland and your Freedom since its birth. And here’s a little challenge to go along with that. How about contributing a dollar for every incorrect answer to a worthy cause that serves our Veterans. They need no introduction from me.  Unsure if a charity really supports Vets? Check it out at You’ll find the answers to the quiz at the end of each section. Good luck. Hoorah!

                                    True or False

  1. The United States Coast Guard was born August 4, 1790 at Alexander Hamilton’s request.
  2. The Coast Guard was once called the US Revenue Cutter Service.
  3. There are approximately 25,000 members of the Coast Guard.
  4. The US Coast Guard operates 100 cutters, 100 aircraft, and 500 other boats.
  5. The Coast Guard has been transferred to the Department of Navy four times in its history.
  6. The US Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Homeland Security.
  7. Boot camp for the USCG is located at Parris Island, SC.
  8. On the average day, the USCG saves 10 lives and conducts almost 50 Search and Rescue missions.
Answers: 1.  True 2. True 3. False: members of the USCG exceed 50,000 4. False: There are 243 cutters, 201 aircraft, and over 1,600 other boats operated by the USCG. 5. False: The Coast Guard has been transferred to the Navy only twice; in WWI and WWII. 6. True. 7. False: Boot camp for the Coast Guard is located at Cape May, New Jersey. 8. True: Thank you Coast Guardians for saving our lives.
  1. The US Navy is actually older than the United States.
  2. Including reserves, over 400,000 personnel serve in the US Navy.
  3. A permanent Navy wasn’t established until 1794.
  4. Only China has a larger aircraft carrier fleet than the US Navy.
  5. Other than navy personnel assigned around the world, the largest concentration of the US Navy is at Hampton Rhodes, VA.
  6. The largest overseas naval base is located in the Philippines.
  7. The initials USS before a ship stands for United States Ship.
  8. About half the US aircraft carriers and submarines are nuclear-powered.
    Answers: 9. True: It was founded as the Continental Navy October 13, 1775. 10. True. 11: True. 12. False: The US Navy has 10 aircraft carriers in service, two in reserve, and three under construction. 13. True 14. False: The largest overseas naval base is at Yokosuka, Japan. 15. True 16. False: All active subs and carriers are powered by nuclear energy.
  9. The US Marines were first formed to fight the British in 1775.
  10. The Marine Corps once actively fought pirates in what became known as the Barbary Wars.
  11. The marines have close to 90,000 serving in the Corps.
  12. Devil Dogs is an affectionate name for the marines.
  13. A detachment of marines frequently served on board regular Navy vessels as security guards.
  14. Those who serve 20 years in the Marine Corps are known as Lifers.
  15. The mascot of the Marine Corps is the eagle.
  16. The motto of the USMC is “By Land or by Sea.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Answers: 17: True: Two battalions were formed in Philadelphia Nov. 10, 1775. 18. True: The fighting took place in the Mediterranean Sea off Tripoli, and inspired the line from the Marines’ Hymn: “To the shores of Tripoli.” 19. False: The number of Marines in the Corps exceeds 182,000 with another 40,000 in reserve.   True. Leatherneck is also a nickname for a marine. 21. True. 22. True. 23. False: The Marines’ mascot is the English bulldog. 24. False: The motto of the USMC is: “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.”

Many thanks to the countless men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces who are keeping America strong and free. And many thanks to veterans past who likewise sacrificed so much to make this land the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free. May this country always stand by you as you have by it.

                                Bill Hegerich 

                                The Uncommon Mariner


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Stand Fast


         If you love your freedom, if you love being able to read the newspaper or magazine of your choice, listen or watch what you want on radio or TV, you need to put your computer or phone aside and thank someone who’s served in the armed forces. But wait! Finish this blog first.

Since 1949, the third Saturday of May has been designated as Armed Forces Day. In fact, the entire preceding week has been set aside to honor all the branches of our military.

I often wondered what it would be like to live in a world without armed forces. Thoughts of peace, tranquility, and brotherhood surfaced momentarily, then I realized the Hitlers, Saddam Husseins, Kim Il Sings, and Osama bin Ladens are always waiting in the wings ready to snatch freedom, property, and life from millions of people. Together they have wiped out untold millions of people and brought unspeakable misery on billions more.

And you thought pirates were bad!

Today’s pirates, as serious a threat as they are, and make no doubt about it, they are a serious threat, are a nuisance compare to the threats posed by organizations like Alq-Queda, Isis, and the Taliban.

Add to this mix a sabre-rattling North Korea, always restless and dangerously aggressive. To her west lies China who has built an island in the South China Sea complete with a lighthouse, expecting the nations of the world to recognize her claim to the surrounding seas as she subtly expands her global power.

Tyranny is alive and well, and people around the world need to realize the price of any country’s freedom is vigilance, and that vigilance lies in an armed force that is respected, honored, and given the support it needs to do its job.

Here in the United States, we place a high value on our military and the families who serve in it. No one knows when the ante will be raised and they will be called to action. We live in uncertain times, and a crisis is never far away. Our military must be ready to adapt to unusual circumstances as it did when President Monroe established the Mosquito Fleet in Key West in response to a vicious uprising of pirates attacks in the 1800’s. Under Commodore Porter’s command, the pirates were dealt with so swiftly they barely had a chance to yell “Aarrrgh!”

Supporting our military is by no means to suggest we return to the Sixties when the super powers had enough bombs to obliterate every living thing on this planet hundreds of times over. But as the leading Super Power, the United States is a microcosm of all civilized nations. When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. We, along with our allies, are constantly being tested. Think 911, and the terrorist bombings in London, Paris, and Belgium.

A standing army and navy equipped with the latest technological advances are a must if we are to be prepared for the next crisis fomented by our enemies. It’s hardly a time to cut the budgets of our dedicated military.

Piracy lasted far too long in the Caribbean in the 1600 and 1700’s. No one expected piracy to become literally such an explosive phenomenon. Lacking a significant army or navy, the super powers that ruled then could do little. It’s true Spain had her guarda costa, but it was too small to be effective. Even Britain did little till she finally got some skin in the game. Once she established a naval presence and sent her pirate hunters to track the buccaneers down, piracy was quickly eradicated.

If you want to keep the bad guys in check, then you have to give our Armed Forces the tools they need to do the job. This nation owes all the men and women who serve a huge debt of thanks, and the best way to do that is to let your congressman know how you feel about budget cuts that adversely affect them.

Armed Forces Day isn’t about flexing our military muscles. It isn’t about threatening other nations. It is about recognizing that might doesn’t make right, but it does go a long way in keeping the bad guys in check- whether they’re pirates, terrorists, or countries halfway around the world eager to test our resolve.

Text, twitter, facebook, call, or email someone you know in the military and thank him/her for their service. And the next time your congressman talks about cutting the military budget that’s already stretched thin, let him know in no uncertain terms what you think of the scalawag.

                           Bill Hegerich

                         The Uncommon Mariner


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A Lifetime Commitment



My daughter, Lieutenant Maureen Katherine Hegerich, recently marked her nineteenth year in the United States Coast Guard. It seems a lifetime ago that this raw recruit showed up at the Cape May Coast Guard Training Center for basic training, but the tides of time keep shifting in fair weather and thick.

For anyone to dedicate nineteen years of his or her life to one’s country is a feat worth noting, not only because it marks a milestone, but because it represents a lifetime of untold sacrifices. And this is true for anyone who has served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps as well.

After basic training, her tours of duty took her to Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Cape Cod, and Washington, D.C.  But her responsibilities flung her beyond these billets on a wide range of assignments far from family and friends.

Because of her exemplary performance while at Activities New York, she was awarded the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award on June 22, 2005. This Woman of the Year award was in “grateful appreciation, deepest respect and gratitude for her supreme sacrifice, dedicated service, and outstanding contributions to the national defense of the United States of America.”

Always hungry to perform beyond her own high standards, she applied for Officer Candidate School. Despite the incredible odds and fierce competition, in the fall of 2006, she earned a place on the roster of a school so selective and demanding, the chosen really are among a rare breed.

Many understand that Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut is designed to train and mold candidates into Coast Guard leaders with character, vision, courage, and intelligence. What the general public and many candidates fail to appreciate is how demanding and extensive the training is. Those who graduate from the seventeen week course are forever changed in ways only those who have passed through the rigorous training can understand.  Maureen graduated in 2007. Continue reading →