COAST GUARD REAR Admiral Stephen P. Metruck, Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District, came to Morehead City Feb. 25 to officially declare Carteret County a “Coast Guard Community.” About 180 people attended the ceremony at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.
No one was more appreciative than retired Coast Guard Chief Ira Lewis, 97, of Harkers Island. His uniform still fits.
Chief Lewis served 21 years in the Coast Guard, originally as a surfman. He enlisted in 1938 and retired in 1959. His Coast Guard history is posted on the Coast Guard website and it was suggested at the ceremony that it be “required reading” for all.
“Carteret County has a special affinity for the Coast Guard, and the US Life-Saving Service before that,” said Bucky Oliver, chair of the board of directors of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. “Our county’s heritage and culture has been intertwined with that of the Coast Guard, ever since those first life-saving stations were opened at Cape Lookout and on Core Banks in the 1880s.”
Only one other location in the country – Camden County in southeast Georgia – is a “Coast Guard Community.” (There are 16 cities in the United States that have been designated as a “Coast Guard City,” including Wilmington and Elizabeth City in North Carolina.)
Carteret County Russell Overman stated that it made sense for the county government to submit the application, because the Coast Guard has a presence at both Fort Macon near Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, and the “entire county appreciates having Coast Guard families as our neighbors.”
Supporting resolutions and letters of endorsement were passed by the Carteret County Board of Commissioners, the Chamber Board and the town governing boards of Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Morehead City, Newport and Pine Knoll Shores.
Personal endorsements were issued by Rep. Walter Jones and NC Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough, a resident of Atlantic Beach.
The chamber of commerce took on the chore to compile the materials, and the application required approval by the US Congress and the Coast Guard Commandant.
Coast Guard Chaplain Lt. Commander John M. Mabus of Elizabeth City set the tone in delivering his invocation during the ceremony. Here are excerpts of his remarks:
“Thank you for this beautiful day and this beautiful location to celebrate and honor the rich Coast Guard heritage here in Carteret County. This history is full of Coast Guard innovation, commitment to excellence and devotion to save lives and protect our homeland.
“As we take time today to officially designate Carteret County as a Coast Guard Community, we are thankful for the wonderful hospitality that this community has shown to the Coast Guard for decades of service.
“…Carteret County has been a community devoted to rescuing those in need as they have provided a welcoming place for the Coast Guard and its mission, which is so close to your heart and character.
“We give you praise for the tapestry of connections between the Coast Guard and the residents, institutions and businesses of the Crystal Coast.
“Thank you for the ongoing and growing support of local officials to seek better and more effective ways to encourage and support the Coast Guard mission and families.
“We are grateful for the ways that the Coast Guard is able to partner with the local schools, churches, service organizations and support agencies.
“We pray for your blessing to continue to be on Carteret County and the Coast Guard and its employees and families here in the Crystal Coast as they serve each day with honor, respect and devotion to duty.”
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce