Story and photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ayla Kelley
While retirements often bring an end to the nine-to-five grind and are characterized by fishing poles and golf clubs, for Coast Guard reservists Chief Petty Officer Bradley Rogers and Chief Petty Officer Harvey Gjesdal, this only applies to one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
Rodgers and Gjesdal said their final farewells to their Coast Guard careers, Nov. 7, 2015 after 26 years each. Surrounded by family, friends and co-workers, Rodgers and Gjesdal were given their final awards — shadow boxes designed to reflect their careers. Each shared their memories and departing thoughts.
Rodgers, a Gresham, Oregon resident since 1995, enlisted in the Coast Guard in the mid-80s and served for 10 years as an active duty Aviation Maintenance Technician.
He became a Port Security Specialist when he returned to the service as a reservist, and retired as a Maritime Enforcement Specialist.
Much of Rodgers’ reserve career has been establishing and leading Vessel Boarding and Search Teams in Washington and Oregon, as well as on several foreign deployments.
Rodgers credits much of his love for serving in the Coast Guard to his late father Lloyd Rogers, a retired Coast Guard Storekeeper.
“I chose the Coast Guard because my dad was a reservist, and I loved the camaraderie I saw when he was with his crew,” said Rodgers. “I always wanted to do search and rescue and fly.”
Rodgers will continue his career at Portland General Electric, where he has been since 1995.
“I am the guy that has to cut your power when you don’t pay the bill,” said Rodgers. “Most people are not happy with that. It’s like when we did boardings and had to terminate voyages due to safety reasons. I use my Coast Guard training to deal with angry customers, and it has helped tremendously.”
Like Rodgers, Gjesdal also uses many of his skills from the Coast Guard in his civilian life.
During his time as a Coast Guard reservist, he worked as both a Port Security Specialist and Maritime Enforcement Specialist.
As he retires his Coast Guard uniform, however, he will still suit up in another one as the sheriff of Douglas County, Washington; a position he has held for nine years.
“My career in law enforcement melded perfectly with my law enforcement experience in the Coast Guard,” said Gjesdal. “The leadership component was strong in both careers and strengthened my skills and ability to serve our citizens.”
Gjesdal made his mark as a Coast Guard leader during several deployments abroad including Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, as a gunner and engineer; Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait; and to Iraq as a firearms instructor after 9/11. He also supported planning efforts during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
As each man shook hands and hugged their supporters, they reflected upon their military careers.
“As a service member, you become a part of history,” said Gjesdal. “It’s a point of pride for me – to be a part of a history of service to our fellow man.”
“I believe in other people, and it gave them power to believe in themselves,” said Rodgers. “It’s been an honor being in this service and I will miss the people the most.”
Fair winds and following seas to both Rodgers and Gjesdal.