CAPE D - U.S. Coast Guard and auxiliary personnel at Station Cape Disappointment have been doing everything in their power this winter and fall to help a locally famous volunteer.
Ralph Gilbert, a member of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla No. 62, has been a part of the Cape Disappointment family for over 12 years and has successfully executed over 860 search and rescue cases aboard his vessel the Bay Mist.
The auxiliary is a volunteer group in which members contribute their time, boats and other resources to helping the Coast Guard in these dangerous waters, which have been described as among the most deadly in the world.
Gilbert also dedicated numerous hours to communication watch standing throughout his many years of service. During this time, he has mentored countless new Coast Guard members in navigation skills, communication watch standing skills and the importance of being a member of the U. S. Coast Guard.
Gilbert was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the men and women of Station Cape Disappointment have dedicated some of their time off to help repay their friend by aiding in his time of need. They have organized fund-raising events to help with medical costs, they have spent time taking Ralph to his medical appointments and visited him as a friend and to help with his chores around his house.
A small group presented the ailing Gilbert with an Auxiliary Meritorious Service Award, along with letters of thanks from an impressive array of leaders.
But the Cape Disappointment unit wanted to show their complete admiration for this man's accomplishments. Without his knowledge, many of the crew went to his home and stood in ranks in his backyard. According to the auxiliary's Larry Kellis, "The members that were standing in Ralph's backyard that day to pay him homage have laid claim to many great days in the Coast Guard, but they will all tell you that was their best day."
Gilbert's service award read in part, "Following the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Gilbert dedicated his outstanding vigilance to aid the war against terrorism. Since that fateful day, he has provided a much needed platform for enforcement of more than 37 security zones around cruise ships, high interest vessels and naval vessels, including the eight-hour escort of four U.S. Navy ships transiting to Portland for the 2003 Rose Festival, a moving security zone that covered over 25 nautical miles of the Columbia River.
"Mr. Gilbert's dedication to the maritime community demonstrates the grit and selfless determination of the early pioneers of the Life Saving Service and epitomizes the dauntless spirit embodied by all those who dedicate their lives so that others may live."
In a letter from Vice President Dick Cheney dated Dec. 12, 2003, that Gilbert's service is recognized. Cheney said, "... our country is strengthened every time a citizen steps forward to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Through your many years of committed service as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, you embody the finest in the American tradition of volunteerism. I am certain that the many individuals and families whose lives you touched over the course of the last fourteen years join me in thanking you for your exceptional service."
Gov. Gary Locke also acknowledged the great work Gilbert has done. He said, "You are a remarkable man. Since you first began volunteering at Station Cape Disappointment in 1989, you were directly responsible for saving ten people and more than a $1 million in property. You have devoted more than 6,500 underway hours to routine safety patrols ... Your outstanding seamanship and genuine concern for others have enabled active duty Coast Guard personnel to concentrate on other important tasks, such as expanding qualified boat crews. I also learned that you have played Santa Claus during the station's Christmas celebrations. Clearly, these crewmembers and their families are extremely fond of you and hold you in high regard."
Continuing the tribute, Admiral Thomas H. Collins, U.S. Coast Guard, said, "Please know that though the numbers cited above are impressive, the largest impression that you have made on the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary extends beyond anything that can be quantified or captured on paper. By your giving attitude and sense of service, you enrich lives. You will forever be a part of those whose lives you have trained, saved or touched. The world is a better place because of you. Thank you!"
And also, State Rep Mark Doumit said about Gilbert, "You have given love and respect to the folks at Cape Disappointment and shown them that the entire community supports them and the work they do ... As a commercial fisherman, as a state senator, and as a citizen, I am especially grateful to you and to the Coast Guard. We live in one of the most dangerous areas in the world for navigation and I can't say enough how much I value our Coast Guard men and women, as well as the priceless energies of the Coast Guard Auxiliarists. I am proud to have this opportunity to convey my respect and appreciation to you."