I have interviewed a Victoria Cross recipient multiple times and sat in his home, and been in the homes of at least three Medal of Honor recipients as well as perhaps a dozen or more homes of descendant recipients. Have shaken the hands of about 45 MOH men and even that of President Abraham Lincoln... sort of. (That story is on this site.)
Have walked the Lincoln route from the train station and stood where he delivered his famous address. Have unveiled several MOH grave markers, been involved in two buried under wrong names for over 130 years, told family they were related to a MOH man, escorted others to a memorial thousands of miles from their home so that they could run their fingers across his engraved name, more than doubled the accepted number of MOH men connected to Canada, stood and paid respects at graves of Canadian heroes in several Canadian provinces and US States and so much more.
Last week's visit to Seattle equaled so many if these milestones over these years. Trips made to recognize those Canadian almost lost to our history.
Douglas Munro is little known in Canada, but not so in the US. His birth at Vancouver BC and relocation to Washington state in pre teen days, joining the USCG before the US entered WWll, and his heroism, at the cost of his life, has been well documented on this site over the years.
As a youth his self taught skills with the drums and bugles led to many accolades. His trips to the Cle Elum Cemetery to practice the "Last Post" was, as he would later claim... "the least I could do for those old vets". Little did he know that for about 75 years he would be on the receiving end of that and other tunes at the same cemetery. His grave therein would become a state historic site.
When interviewing his sister several years ago I was told that he was taken out to do some hunting as a teen...but he couldn't pull the trigger. He did not want to kill anything! His sister added that when he decided to join the military just before his 20th birthday, he wanted to become involved with a unit that was not out for the kill.. but to save lives... and thus, he turned to the US Coast Guard. An agency who's website today tells that they have saved over OVER ONE MILLION LIVES in past years.
Here is America's latest life saving tool. It crews about 150, is over 400 feet long and displaces 4.500 long tons and can race along at about 30 knots. Like two war ships before, she proudly carries the name of Douglas Munro, as her namesake.
After sea trials along the east coast. and a christening at the shipyard, she was sent off on her 8,000 mile journey to Seattle for final touch-ups, and preparations to become operational. Then came the Commissioning Ceremony of which I was thrilled to be invited to, was held last Saturday.
This is the third vessel named in honour of First Class Signalman Douglas Munro. The first was a Navy destroyer and operated honourably from 1944 till 1965. The 2nd was the first Coast Guard Cutter named in his honor... as the DOUGLAS MUNRO, while the third is just THE MUNRO. to avoid confusion. The 2nd vessel continues to do important service operating out of Kodiak Alaska and has had several home ports over her extensive career in life saving, patrol of the fisheries, watching out for illegal immigrants and the constant look-out for attempts to bring drugs into the US.
Some 500 guests and participants at the Seattle service heard of the Munro's being put to the test even before being commissioned. Enroute she was called upon to save 3 stranded on a life raft. A second incident had 3 standing in empty oil barrels. Most interesting that on closer examination the crew found lots of little bags of white stuff floating all about the oil drums. They contained about 5 Million worth of cocaine.
Now, had it been Civil War says, maybe they could have got some prize money for the enemy ships (or little white bags) they captured. But I think cocaine doesn't fit that bill. And speaking of the CW days, readers should note that the UNCIVIL war started on today's date... back in 1861 when a woman started firing away.
That woman was Harriet Lane.... a ship, named after a relation to the President, and firing at a fort in Charleston Harbour as it attempted to enter to resupply the union soldiers at Fort Sumter.
Harriet was the niece of President James Buchanan at the start of the war, and actually an acting First Lady at the time. The ship in her name was one of those in the US Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of today's USCG.
But getting back to Seattle, early Friday morning the Ship's captain and complete crew had assembled on the deck to report for duties of the day. These began with the accepting of two presentations.
The first was from the USCG Combat Veterans Association, and the 2nd was from Douglas's place of birth... Canada.
I had previously asked if the ship would accept, and then asked the Lt Governor of BC, Munro's province of birth, if she would have a Canadian flag flown over Government House at Victoria, presented to me, and I in turn to the Captain and Crew of the new Cutter.
Approval being granted, I further asked that the flag be flown during the week of 25 March as that was the very day, back in 1863 that the very first Medal of Honor was presented to a recipient in the US. It was presented to Jacob Parrott, at the White House, as he was the youngest of the first of six survivors recently released by the Confederates, and involved in the famous Great Locomotive Chase made famous several years ago by Walt Disney.
Then came the unveiling of the presentation flag. I noted that it was flown over Government house, the significance of the week flown and as exposing the back of the presentation box first... and of course on purpose. Therein you can see what is there... if you look real closely.
On Sunday I will be back to talk about the tour l had later that day and of course the most impressive Commissioning ceremony the following day.