Coast Guardsmen fulfill veteran’s wish

By PA3 Connie Terrell
First District Public Affairs

Martin Foley Jr. loves to tell sea stories from his time serving in the Coast Guard more than 50 years ago.

Sitting in his home in Rockland, Mass., surrounded by his family, the 75-year old Foley reminisced about his time aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bibb as a young man in the early 1950s.

Foley’s son, Marty, grew up listening to his father’s sea stories and remembers his father taking him and his sister down to see the Bibb when he was 12.

One of Foley’s favorite stories was how when the crew had swim call, there was always somebody with a gun looking for sharks.

He described the mad dash of the swimmers to get out of the water whenever a shark was spotted.

“It was like they walked on water to get out,” he said.

Now with the onset of advanced Parkinson’s disease, Marty said it became increasingly important to his dad to spend time with someone in the Coast Guard and share his sea stories.

To fulfill his father’s wish, Marty contacted the Coast Guard. Shortly after, his dad’s wish was answered when two Coast Guardsmen from Coast Guard Station Point Allerton, Mass., came to visit him at his home.

Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Guthlein, the commanding officer of the station, and Chief Petty Officer Michael DiBartolomeo, the executive officer, spent the day with Foley swapping sea stories and talking about how the Coast Guard used to be and how it has changed throughout the years.

“I’ve not seen my dad smile and laugh in a long, long time,” said Marty.

Foley also remembered the first time he got into trouble as a young, inexperienced seaman. During the dead of winter Foley was told to clear ice from one of the cutter’s mooring lines. Being new to the Coast Guard, Foley didn’t know he was supposed to use a baseball bat to chip away the ice. Instead, Foley used an axe and accidentally cut the mooring line.

After his three-year tour on the Bibb, Foley decided to get out of the Coast Guard to start a family with his wife, Jeanette. After nearly 50 years of marriage they now have five children, three grandchildren and another grandchild on the way.

“He would’ve been a lifer,” Marty said, adding that his father always wondered what his life would have been like if he stayed in the Coast Guard.

One of the things his father missed most about the Coast Guard was the camaraderie, Marty said.

“He had a very tight knit crew,” he said. “They took care of one another.”

Before leaving, Guthlein and DiBartolomeo presented Foley with a unit ball cap, a Coast Guard ensign that was flown on the station’s 47-foot motor lifeboat, and a Station Point Allerton unit plaque, a plaque that is traditionally only given to members stationed at the unit.

In addition, DiBartolomeo also removed one of his chief insignias from his uniform and pinned it on Foley’s ball cap.

“It was just my way of saying thanks for his service to this country and fighting for the freedom we have today,” said DiBartolomeo.

“My dad has not taken the Point Allerton cap off his head since he was given it that day,” Marty said. “His [DiBartolomeo] kindness for such an act toward my dad can only be thought of as an act of a hero.”

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