Coast Guard Ancient Keeper: ‘We are going to chase perfection’

Ancient Keeper. It may sound like an insult, but for Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop, it’s his new well-deserved title. In a ceremony held last week, Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens, who retired from the Coast Guard with 30 years of service, relinquished his title of the Coast Guard’s Ancient Keeper to Lathrop during a special ceremony, which followed the station’s change of watch.

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Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens stands at the change of watch ceremony for the Coast Guard's Ancient Keeper. Clemens was relieved as the service's Ancient Keeper by Master Chief Petty Officer David Pierias. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens stands at the change of watch ceremony for the Coast Guard’s Ancient Keeper. Clemens was relieved as the service’s Ancient Keeper by Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Ancient Keeper. It may sound like an insult, but for Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop, it’s his new well-deserved title.

In a ceremony held last week, Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens, who retired from the Coast Guard with 30 years of service, relinquished his title of the Coast Guard’s Ancient Keeper to Lathrop during a special ceremony, which followed the station’s change of watch.

A coveted title in the Coast Guard’s boat forces community, the Joshua James Ancient Keeper Award is a title given to an active-duty Coast Guard member to recognize their longevity within the boat force community. The award is named after Coast Guard hero Capt. Joshua James, who is credited with saving more than 600 lives during his lifetime.

Master Chief Petty Officer David Pierias took over as the service's Ancient Keeper after the retirement of Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop took over as the service’s Ancient Keeper after the retirement of Master Chief Petty Officer James Clemens. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presided over the ceremony, citing Clemens commitment to excellence during his reign as Ancient Keeper and throughout his 30 years of service to the nation

As Lathrop took the helm as the service’s Ancient Keeper, he reflected on what the title meant to the boat forces community as a whole.

“I am honored and humbled to stand here before you as the Joshua James Ancient Keeper,” he said. “It is more than just a honorable position. It is a sign of respect that comes with our service’s commitment to excellence.”

And as Lathrop put on the famed U.S. Life Saving Service hat, it was reminiscent of the rescuers who put their lives on the line each and every day throughout the service’s 225-year history. Perhaps no one captured the essence of these lifesavers and Joshua James better than U.S. Life Saving Service superintendent Sumner Kimball at James’ funeral in 1902, when he said,

Here and there may be found men in all walks of life who neither wonder nor care how much or how little the world thinks of them.  They pursue life’s pathway, doing their appointed tasks without ostentation, loving their work for the work’s sake, content to live and do in the present rather than look for the uncertain rewards of the future.  To them notoriety, distinction, or even fame, acts neither as a spur nor a check to endeavor, yet they are really among the foremost of those who do the world’s work. Joshua James was one of these.”

Master Chief Petty Officer David Pierias speaks with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft following the Ancient Keeper change of watch ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop speaks with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft following the Ancient Keeper change of watch ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Reflecting on the excellence of those who came before, Lathrop closed the ceremony with his commitment to the future of the boat forces community, paraphrasing a quote from the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

“We are going to chase perfection, knowing full well that we won’t catch it,” he said. “However, in pursuing perfection we can catch excellence.”

The Joshua James Ancient Keeper Award is named for Capt. Joshua James, who is credited with saving more than 600 lives in his lifetime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
The Joshua James Ancient Keeper Award is named for Capt. Joshua James, who is credited with saving more than 600 lives in his lifetime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

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