There is a long tradition in many of the armed services called the wetting down. What exactly is a wetting down? Well, there are a lot of different stories about where the tradition comes from. Here is one explanation:
I n the old Navy, an officer’s commission was hand-written on heavy parchment. According to some sources, the newly commissioned or promoted officer held a dinner for his shipmates and friends. During the course of the evening, the new commission was rolled into a cone, the small end folded up to form a cup. This paper cup was passed around the table for all the guests to toast the new officer. Thus, the new commission was “wetted down.” Considering the importance of the document, however, this interpretation may be doubtful. (from http://www.history.navy.mil)
Most references I found to the origins of the wetting down did refer to then person that was being promoted getting thrown into some body of water. This doesn’t tend to happen today.
No matter where it originally came from (I just can’t imagine drinking from cup made out of someone’s commissioning certificate!) the tradition of the wetting down remains strong. Today it usually entails the officer (or officers) being promoted hosting a party for their friends, peers and coworkers.
Last year LT Jon Grzyb and a few classmates combined their wetting down and a charity. The group combined their money, rented out a restaurant and invited a few people to come celebrate. The proceeds from the celebration were then donated to the charity. The event was a success, but it is the hope of this year’s group to make it an even bigger success.
In December of 2008, Grzyb was talking to a LT Daniel Flynn about the idea of making a wetting down into a charity event. They thought that if Flynn started the planning earlier, it could be even more successful.
Plan they did and as of right now, there are 14 officers for the event today. The participating officers are: LCDR Jim Bailey, LCDR Sue Condon, LT Dan Flynn, LT Josh Daubenspeck, LT Jess Kane, LT Amalia Daratsos, LT Ben Stevenson, LT Larry Curran, LT Kristen Curran, LT Karen Hewes, LT John Elkins, LT Yanira Tirado, LT Frank Marcheski,LT Tommy Osborn.
The proceeds from the wetting down will be going to the Make a Wish Foundation. Make A Wish is bringing a child to the event and will be showing a 10 minute video so people can further understand what they do.
I should note here that the officers are choosing to do this of their own volition. There is no regulation or official Coast Guard support for a wetting down, this is something that officers do entirely on their own. There is no formal affiliation between the Coast Guard and the Make a Wish Foundation, though I can tell you that Coast Guard units love to do good things for children.
“Everyone [in the promotion group] really likes this idea because it promotes a time honored tradition, while benefiting the community and maxing out the potential that the combined purchasing power that money can have….” Flynn told me. “With this event, we can have an awesome party while being an example to the community and the people we serve. ”
The Make a Wish Foundation and their missions are very important to Flynn. He had a very serious medical issue about 2 years ago and ended up in the hospital for a week. That’s when he says he had the “cliché” moment where he realized that life is a gift and should never be taken for granted.
“I saw young kids with diseases and it was heartbreaking. What Make A Wish does for kids is truly remarkable and a special calling for those people that work tirelessly to make kids dreams come true.” Flynn told me.
The officers participating this year hope that this becomes a new wetting down tradition. It is a fantastic new twist on an old custom and I will admit that I too hope that other officers will pick charities to support with their wetting downs in the future.