Through the Thanksgiving holiday, many Americans look forward to reuniting with family, watching football and of course feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie. But, Thanksgiving is more than good food and good games. It is a time to reflect on those who have made a difference in our lives and community. In this spirit of giving thanks, we reached out to our Facebook fans and asked them to share the story of a Coast Guard member who has touched their life. Today, a Coast Guard veteran tells of the “hair-raising sea stories” his father told and the close relationship they shared.
Written by retired Chief Warrant Officer Henry R. Roesing Jr.
At 76 years old today, I’m again reminded of my father, Henry Roy Roesing Sr., who almost made it to 69 years old.
No way would I seek to diminish the influence of my mother in my life, but this guy – my father, Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate Roesing – remains a great hero to me. He was tough, but I knew he loved my sister and I.
He was a colorful character. I heard his hair-raising sea stories, it seems, from before I could walk. They were often so wild and vivid I thought my active duty started before my teens. I never dared ask him, but I sometimes wondered, “Could this have really happened?”
Though his career was cut short – coming close to death and having retired on disability – oh, how he loved the U.S. Coast Guard! He obviously instilled that love for the Coast Guard in his only son, because his influence on me was strong enough that I joined and served 21 years, retiring in Juneau, Alaska, as chief warrant officer.
The most memorable of Chief Roesing’s stories were those surrounding “rum running days.” Details escape me now, but I do recall his battle station was manning a machine gun. Some of these stories, when my childhood friends and I sat spellbound at his knee, were among those I was secretly thinking, “Could this be so?” But we ate it up. Of course, I’m convinced his exploits were true, but I suppose they might have been embellished a little.
He also shared more mundane things and actually made them pretty exciting too. One was the story of disarming a fellow on the streets of New Orleans while on shore patrol. He made that story almost as exciting as some of those aboard a ship.
I also loved Dad’s bragging as being the best motor machinist’s mate ever. And he could brag without losing his endearing qualities people loved. Actually, from what I saw, I do believe he was the best. He really knew his stuff. One story was about other ships calling to his ship for assistance from Chief Roesing. He gladly went, insisted everyone leave the engine room, fixed the problem and then left a little bag of parts hanging somewhere in the engine room with a suitable note just to poke a little fun.
What a guy! I really miss him, but I have those fond memories. Chief Roesing Sr. died in 1969 while I was chief radioman on Coast Guard Cutter Southwind returning from the Antarctic. Capt. S.R. Dolber insisted I leave the ship and fly home from the Indian Ocean for his funeral. I’m forever indebted to Capt. Dolber for that.
Henry’s story is the last in our “giving thanks” series. Take a look at the week’s previous stories for more family and friends showing their gratitude for the servicemember in their life. We also encourage you to write your own notes of thanks to friends, acquaintances and even strangers who touched your life this year.