Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin
The Coast Guard Ensign, Semper Paratus, christenings, commissioning, mascots and Ancients… are all hallmarks of time-honored Coast Guard traditions.
Of these, the Ancient Keeper is the most recent addition, established in 2003, honoring the Coast Guard member with the most experience in Coast Guard boat forces.
In a ceremony held Friday, Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Lathrop, who retired from the Coast Guard with 30 years of service, relinquished his title as the Coast Guard’s Ancient Keeper to Master Chief Petty Officer Kirk McKay during a special ceremony at Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, in Essexville, Michigan.
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.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presided over the ceremony, citing Lathrop’s commitment to excellence during his reign as Ancient Keeper and throughout his 30 years of service to the nation.
“When it comes to excellence, Lathrop wrote the book,” said Zukunft.
In 2015, when Lathrop became the Ancient Keeper he 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.
This time it was Zukunft’s turn to quote 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.”
Then, with the Coast Guard commandant presiding, Lathrop and McKay exchanged their hats signifying the change in watch as the Coast Guard’s Ancient Keeper.
As McKay took the helm as the service’s Ancient Keeper, he stated how he wants to make the boat forces community better and more effective.
“Several months ago I got a call from Jeff Wheeler and he said, ‘You’re the guy. Are you ready and willing to take on this added responsibility?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely, I’m in.’
“So I’m excited and honored to take on this new responsibility,” McKay continued. “I look forward to representing the boat forces community to the best of my ability. With the help of the Boat Forces Advisory Council I hope we strive to make the boat forces community better and more effective.”
Throughout the Ancient Keeper change of watch ceremony, Station Saginaw River change of command ceremony and Lathrop’s retirement ceremony, Lathrop’s love of the Green Bay Packers was shown through with the many Vince Lombardi quotes spoken by leaders at all levels.
“After the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and all the pomp and fanfare has faded, the enduring things that are left are: the dedication to excellence, the dedication to victory, and the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”