An Auxiliarist Underway – Part IV – Welcome Home!

Auxiliarist Charles McLeod (aka Santa Claus) hugs a child upon return to homeport.

Auxiliarist Charles McLeod (aka Santa Claus) hugs a child upon return to homeport.

It’s very early on the quarterdeck of the LEGARE which is moored to the tiny island of Key West, Florida. I gaze at the rising sun and cannot help but replay all the early mornings of the last two months I was on watch watching the sunrise in the Pacific. At that moment it hit me – today we leave for home. No other stops, no other orders. We are going to slip out of Key West and head home. For a brief moment I was sad. I thought of the things I wanted to accomplish that I would not have time to do.

Off in the distance I hear someone playing Christmas music and again it strikes me as odd that it has been 74 degrees the last few days and it’s near the end of the year. I’ve heard that it’s 40 degrees in Virginia and I honestly can’t wait for that! I also miss hearing the Canadian Geese fly. Back in chilly Virginia, I will be the only one walking around like I just came from the islands with my tan…… oh wait! I guess I kind of have! Even though I did not have the roominess of a private cabin, I had 90 of my closest friends with me all the time. And while there wasn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet, we did have king crab legs one night. Then there were the port calls – the Cayman Islands, Panama City, and Key West to be specific. On top of it all, I was able to learn more about the Coast Guard in an environment that very, very few ever get to experience. I was snapped back to attention as IT2 Livingston piped “Reveille, reveille!” and wished I could have had an hour more of sleep.

As we count down the days to Christmas, there are all sorts of morale activities to help shift us from an operational mode to a more festive one, such as movies, music, and the occasional Christmas cookie. However, I really believe what gets us from day to day as we near home is each other. The chatter from the crew on the mess deck is all about travel plans and gifts purchased. People are really happy to be coming back from a long cruise, and are excited to take time off to be with family and friends.

Sylvania (left to right), Mikey and Sophia  Mellot wait with their mother Sharr Mellot at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Va., for their father Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Mellott to return from a 52-day patrol aboard Coast Guard Cutter Legare Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. The family waited as part a large group of family and friends of the cutter crew who returned home just in time for the holidays. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Krystyn Pecora

Sylvania (left to right), Mikey and Sophia Mellot wait with their mother Sharr Mellot at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Va., for their father Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Mellott to return from a 52-day patrol aboard Coast Guard Cutter Legare Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.
The family waited as part a large group of family and friends of the cutter crew who returned home just in time for the holidays.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Krystyn Pecora

What has truly amazed me is how the crew finds ways to include me as part of their underway family. I was just given a flag that the cutter flew while on patrol as a keepsake! How great it is that I get to be included in this family! I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Coast Guard men and women who head out to sea. Cutter life is not easy – you miss birthdays, anniversaries, and all sorts of events. When you return home, you have to get reacquainted with ‘normal life’ and just when you do it seems that you’re headed back out again. As you can imagine, it takes a special type of person to be able to do this job! I feel that I am in no way even close to living up to the life this crew leads year around.

More importantly, I can’t leave out the importance of the families that support the crew from shore. Many of the crew will have loved ones waiting for them on to dock, no matter what the weather is, no matter what time it is. The holiday season reinforces how important family really is. So as the newest member of the LEGARE family, I’d like to thank you for your support. Remember we think of you as much, if not more every day we are gone. We are glad to be home!