Post written by Angela Hirsch, chief, Coast Guard Community Relations
Retired Rear Adm. Stephen P. Rochon was honored Tuesday as the Coast Guard recipient of the Spirit of Hope Award at a ceremony at the Pentagon. The award honors individuals whose patriotism and service to members of the Armed Forces reflect the patriotism and service of Bob Hope. Awards were also presented to recipients selected by the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Adm. Rochon, a lifelong student of history, has focused particularly on highlighting the role African Americans have played in shaping today’s Coast Guard. He wrote and produced a video documentary honoring the late Alex Haley, who served 20 years as a Coast Guardsman before going on to write the acclaimed book, “Roots.” He also led the effort to award the Gold Lifesaving Medal to six New Orleans mariners for their bravery during the 1969 fire and sinking of the SS Union Faith on the Mississippi River.
In 1996, Rochon spearheaded the posthumous awarding of the Gold Lifesaving Medal to the all-black crew of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station for their daring rescue in 1896 near the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
“Adm. Rochon’s passion for history resurrected some of our Service’s greatest untold stories, stories which remind us how our diversity – whether a hundred years ago or today – makes us stronger,” said Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, who presented the Spirit of Hope award to Adm. Rochon and gave the ceremony’s keynote address. “Bob Hope and the winners of this award that bears his name remind us how we all can use our passions and talents to give back to the men and women of the Armed Forces.”
Since his retirement from the Coast Guard in 2007, Adm. Rochon has continued working on behalf of the Coast Guard, sharing his knowledge as interest in these previously untold stories has grown. He served as an advisor to the documentary film “Rescue Men,” released this year, and to “Fire on the Beach,” the book on which the film was based.
“Adm. Rochon has been an enthusiastic advocate of the history of the Coast Guard and particularly that of the contributions of African Americans to the service,” said Coast Guard Historian Dr. Robert Browning. “For many years he has advanced and promoted the knowledge that we have on the African American lifesaving crew at Pea Island, North Carolina. The service and the nation are richer for his untiring efforts.”