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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 10, 2021

A Veterans Day Special: Stories from the Academy

By Dave Santos, Coast Guard Academy External Affairs

At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy there are a series of memorials near the cadet dorms known as the Hall of Heroes that recognize service heroes as well as cadets and officers who have died in the line of duty.  

On Oct. 22 a small group of alumni was inducted into the Wall of Gallantry, a memorial established to honor Academy graduates who have performed heroic acts of service and have been formally recognized with a qualifying award during the course of their military careers.  

Every year, cadets view nominations for induction and vote on those they think are most deserving of this special recognition.  

During the induction ceremony Academy senior leaders and the entire corps of cadets gathered together to thank those they consider service heroes. “My charge to the cadets is to share these stories with at least one other person,” said Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly.     

Here are those stories.   

Sean O’Brien ’97 was awarded two Air Medals in 2005 for meritorious achievement in aerial flight while serving as a helicopter pilot at Coast Guard Air Station Houston.   

He received the first award for his actions during the rescue of the master of a fishing vessel whose arm was caught and crushed in a winch while fishing off the coast of Galveston, Texas in February. According to an award citation, after flying in near zero-visibility and avoiding the fishing vessel’s 60-foot mast and scaffolding, the helicopter suddenly experienced a hoist mechanism failure. O’Brien guided his crew to quickly regain use of the critical system, enabling the rescue swimmer to safely deploy to the vessel.                                                                                            

Once the master was freed from the winch, O’Brien then coached his crew through a difficult hoist and delivered the injured man to emergency medical care, with his aircraft dangerously low on fuel. Six months later, he was part of the massive Coast Guard response to Hurricane Katrina. According to a citation that accompanied his second Air Medal that same year, during one particularly dramatic flight, O’Brien used night vision goggles to fly in near total darkness. Hovering his aircraft above the unlit roof of a semi-submerged house he and his crew rescued an elderly couple as smoke and fumes from nearby fires filled the helicopter’s cockpit.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Over the course of more than 30 hours of flight time during the Katrina response, O’Brien was instrumental in the rescue of more than 200 victims according to the Coast Guard. 

Richard Wester ‘93 was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for rescuing Haitian migrants while serving as a boarding officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Escape in 1994.   

A citation that accompanied his award describes the crew of Escape interdicting a severely overloaded vessel. As the crew prepared to transfer the migrants to the Coast Guard cutter, the Haitian vessel capsized throwing 26 people into the sea.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

As Wester pulled one woman to safety, he began throwing life jackets to the others who were struggling to stay afloat. The citation reads, “seeing an infant that had drifted from its mother and had slipped below the surface Ensign Wester, in complete disregard for his own safety and completely outfitted in law enforcement gear, dove from the small boat, brought the baby to the surface” where it was lifted to safety. He was also able to pull three more migrants aboard who were clinging to the ship.   

Richard Hauschildt ’68 was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.   

A citation that accompanied the award describes a highly unusual case in which Hauschildt flew an HH-52A helicopter to the rescue of two power plant workers whose working platform had become wedged hundreds of feet inside of a 650-foot smokestack in Portage, Wisc., after its raising mechanism failed.                                                                                                                                          

Despite low ceilings and marginal visibility, Hauschildt flew two other workers, a steel cage, hundreds of feet of cable and other equipment to a catwalk 15-feet below the lip of the smokestack. As the weather onsite steadily grew worse, he made a slow vertical ascent and despite losing sight of the stack he eventually hoisted both men out of the smokestack inside the protective steel cage.  

William Nock ’67 was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during the Vietnam War.   

During the war, 82-foot Coast Guard patrol boats and their crews served with the U.S. Navy with the mission of stopping the movement of arms and supplies from the South China Sea into South Vietnam.  

A citation that accompanied his award describes Nock and the crew the Coast Guard Cutter Point Mast which he commanded, “conducting aggressive combat patrols in the coastal waters of Vietnam.  In a 10-month period, he directed 54 naval gunfire support missions which captured enemy troops and supplies and severely damaged known enemy encampments.”                                

Nock also worked to transfer the Point Mast to South Vietnamese forces as part of a policy that expanded, equipped, and trained them to take on an increasing combat role as U.S. troops were reduced in the region.   

Nesbit Lofton ‘66 was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement while engaging in armed conflict in Vietnam.  

A citation that accompanied his award describes Lofton, who commanded two different patrol boats in Vietnam, conducting more than 40 gunfire support missions in an eight-month period resulting in the destruction of 38 enemy structures and bunkers accounting for several enemy killed in action.                                                                                                                                                          

He and his crew maintained a more than 68% underway time during Operation Market Time, which continued for eight and a half years and denied the enemy a means of delivering tons of war materials into South Vietnam.  

Andrew Horsey ‘65 was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement while engaging in armed conflict.    

A citation that accompanied his award describes Horsey’s efforts while commanding the patrol boats Point Hudson and Point Welcome pursuing aggressive counter-infiltration and board and search missions against enemy forces in Vietnam.  His board and search operations resulted in the detention of hundreds of suspected enemy combatants.   

While on the Point Hudson, Horsey was called on to provide emergency gunfire for a Republic of Vietnam outpost that was being overrun by the enemy.  The rapid and devastating response resulted in the withdrawal of enemy forces and several fatalities.  

John Greason ‘63 was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions against enemy forces during the Vietnam War.  

A citation that accompanied his award describes Greason’s efforts as commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Point Partridge, patrolling the waters off the coast of Vietnam for more than 21,000 miles during Operations Market Time and Game Warden, two of the most successful U.S. Naval actions during the Vietnam War.                                                                                              

Greason and his crew sank an enemy ship, killing one crewmember and capturing another with weapons, ammunition, and valuable intelligence in their possession. His crew engaged in heavy semiautomatic and small arms fire with another enemy ship and were able to suppress fire and capture the ship and its crew with no serious injuries and minimal damage to the cutter.