Growth for a cause

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell

While some men sport mustaches to look older or just for a new look, the men at Coast Guard Station Merrimack River in Newburyport, Mass., had other reasons.

Their motivation to grow out their “mo,” slang for mustache, came from Movemeber, a program designed to raise money and awareness for testicular and prostate cancer through growing a mustache during November.

Chief Petty Officer Jason Holm, the officer in charge of the station, said when browsing the Internet one day, he came across information about Movemeber and thought it could be something fun for the station crew to participate in.

During quarters, a unit meeting, the chief invited everyone to participate, said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Jenkins, a boatswain’s mate at the station.

Not only did Jenkins think Movember would be fun, he had a more personal connection.

“My 19 year-old cousin died from testicular cancer,” said Jenkins. “We were best friends.”

Jenkins’ cousin lost the battle with cancer about one year after being diagnosed.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 18-35 years. In the past 35 years, the number of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has grown by approximately 60 percent.

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men.

Even though the crew was raising money for a serious matter, they kept things at the station lighthearted and upbeat.

As the “mo’s,” grew, so did the crew’s morale.

Everyone was trying to predict how it was going to go, who was doing well, said Jenkins. With our duty schedule we would be away for two or three days so it was interesting to see how much everyone’s mustache grew while they were gone, he said.

Some of the crewmen also took fun photos of themselves with their “mo” for the website where friends and families could donate to the Movember Foundation.

The men didn’t have all the glory though – the women at the station also got involved.

While everyone was getting ready for quarters, the station’s women marched in wearing fake mustaches glued to their upper lip, Jenkins said.

“It was so funny,” said Jenkins. “We all lost it.”

One of them also brought in a grab bag of stuff to help the men groom their mustaches.

They definitely helped keep the morale high, said Jenkins.

Jenkins said that while it was fun growing the “mo,” he sometimes felt people were staring when he went out in public.

“I felt a little self-conscious, but then you remember why you’re doing it,” Jenkins said.

“I thought we would raise between $50-$100,” said Holm, but with several of the crewmembers participating the station ended up raising nearly $1,500 in the month of November.

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