While watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Chase Ryan pointed to September 11, 2001 as the day that helped set the course for his future.
After graduating from Paul Blazer High School in Ashland, Ky., Ryan was working odd jobs around his hometown when the planes hit the World Trade Center.
Less than a month later, he decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard.
His first assignment sent him out of his native Kentucky to the quaint coastal town of Cape Charles, Va.
It was in his very first search and rescue mission as a Coxswain at his new post that Ryan points to one of most memorable moments of his career thus far.
His station’s patrol area included 20 miles of the Atlantic coastline and portions of the lower Chesapeake Bay as well as area tributaries. One frigid winter day, a young woman attempted to take her own life by jumping from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
“The water was about 27 degrees that day,” Ryan remembers, recounting the ice that dotted the Bay.
With Ryan at the helm, his crew helped to plot a search pattern through the icy waters around the base of the bridge. They quickly analyzed the tidal patterns and wind direction, and with the assistance of local police officers and another Coast Guard patrol boat, the team located the woman and saved her from a frigid demise.
In a letter of commendation from the Hampton Roads Sector Commander, he was recognized for quickly clearing a spot for a Coast Guard helicopter and allowing the victim to be safely transported to the hospital.
“Your fast thinking and preparation were instrumental in the saving of a life,” the letter reads. “You are commended for outstanding performance on duty. By your meritorious service, you have upheld the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”
“We did that mission together,” he insists.
The seamless effort would not have been possible without the additional Coast Guard assets and the other police officers on the scene.
Before relocating to his current post in Marathon, Ryan successfully executed more than 44 search and rescue missions, 35 law enforcement boardings and served as Officer of the Day for two years.
His missions on duty as Coxswain/Boatswain’s Mate, 2nd Class include law enforcement, organization of search and rescue missions, marine environmental protection and boat operation.
“I drive the boat and make sure everybody’s safe,” he plainly summarized.
The responsibilities in his Marathon post are similar to his duties in Virginia, but with the busy recreational boating traffic in what he calls the “endless summer” of the Florida Keys, he admits to being a bit busier in his southernmost post.
The Marathon Coast Guard station also offers the unique opportunity of often working to transport marine life to and from the rehabilitation facilities at the Turtle Hospital.
Ryan said he was quite happy to have escaped the chilly Virginia winters.
“I don’t like the change of seasons,” he admitted. “I hate being cold.”
In May of 2009, with only a few months notice, he will be advised of his next post. Needless to say, he’s hoping to remain in the state of Florida.
But enough about his career.
This young Coastie’s personal highlight was when mutual friends introduced him to his future bride, Mary Shannon Queen. She is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Florida Keys Community College.
The couple’s two children, Dixie and Mary Gold, are of the four-legged variety.
His friend Kevin Scalabrin, owner of Above and Below Extreme Ocean Sports, introduced Ryan to the exciting sport of spear fishing shortly after he arrived in the Keys. As a kid in Kentucky, he enjoyed swimming, camping, hiking and anything outdoors. Not much has changed. He still enjoys spending a great day out on the water with his friends and finishing it with the fish tacos at Sparky’s Landing.
Chase on a 41’ utility boat used for patrolling, search and rescue, and law enforcement on the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.