Coast Guard holds annual Blackthorn memorial service in Galveston, Texas

A crew member from one of Sector Houston-Galveston's underlying units selects a rose to lay at the Blackthorn memorial to commemorate a fallen crew member of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn during the 41st anniversary memorial service Jan. 28, 2021, at Base Galveston in Galveston, Texas. The Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker vessel Capricorn in Tampa, Florida, near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Jan. 28, 1980 and lost 23 of its 50 crew members in the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Dickinson)

A crew member from one of Sector Houston-Galveston’s underlying units selects a rose to lay at the Blackthorn memorial to commemorate a fallen crew member of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn during the 41st anniversary memorial service Jan. 28, 2021, at Base Galveston in Galveston, Texas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Dickinson)

HOUSTON — The Coast Guard honored 23 fallen crewmembers Thursday in Galveston, Texas, during the 41st anniversary memorial service of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision.

Capt. Keith Donohue, Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston Deputy Sector Commander, presided over the ceremony held in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial at Base Galveston. The ceremony included a reading of a letter penned by Master Chief Ronald Miller, officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Vice at the time of the collision, a reading of the names of the lost Blackthorn crewmembers and the tolling of a ship’s bell.

During the ceremony, crewmembers from Sector Houston-Galveston underlying units laid 23 roses to commemorate each of the fallen crewmembers.

“It is truly an honor to be part of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial ceremony,” said Chief Warrant Officer Matt Fonville, Aids to Navigation Officer at Base Galveston. “We must all remember the 23 crewmembers lost, as well as those who experienced this horrible tragedy. The Coast Guard is a small service and cutter crews are a close family. I have been very fortunate to speak to many of the surviving crewmembers and each one of them express their gratitude and thanks for the continued support for the Blackthorn.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker vessel Capricorn in Tampa, Florida, near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Jan. 28, 1980. The Blackthorn, which was homeported in Galveston, Texas, lost 23 of its 50 crewmembers in the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. Memorials inscribed with the names of the crewmembers who perished stand two miles north of the collision site and at Base Galveston.

The Blackthorn collision provided the impetus for the establishment of the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The school offers courses to prepare command-level officers and senior enlisted members for command duty afloat. Additionally, the Coast Guard developed new training requirements, invested in more safety equipment and made changes to the navigational aids in and around Tampa Bay.

Steeped in tradition and respectful remembrance, the annual Blackthorn commemoration is a moving tribute offering glimpses into the finest Coast Guard traditions.

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