Family shares 10 year reunion with the Acushnet

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Morrison held hands with his wife Harmonie and their 9-year-old son, Brendan, as they stood on the pier in silence looking at the Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet for the first time in 10 years.

After meeting in Eureka, Calif., Stephen and Harmonie exchanged vows on the fantail during Independence Day July 1998. A few weeks later they left together for a Coast Guard training school and would not see the Acushnet together again until Sept. 23, 2008.

Stephen stood on the pier, turned towards his family and said to them in excitement, “well let’s go see it.”

“Request permission to come aboard,” Stephen said as he saluted the quarterdeck watch stander while walking across the brow from the pier to the Acushnet. His family walked just behind him. Once they walked across the brow they walked on to the foc’sle of the Acushnet and gathered around the Acushnet emblem as they looked around the bow.

Walking across the brow of the Acushnet and standing on the bow of the Acushnet brought back memories from 10 years ago for both Stephen and Harmonie.

“I felt old, but it did feel like seeing an old friend. Showing my son my first ship and the place where we were married,” Stephen said. “My wife and I know, that if not for being stationed in Juneau, Alaska, we would have never seen the Acushnet again.”

“It was a little surreal,” Harmonie said while she was standing on the bow looking back toward the Acushnet. “I wasn’t sure we would ever see the Acushnet, let alone be able to take our son on board.”

Stephen and Harmonie walked on the starboard side of the Acushnet and eventually made their way through several narrow ladder wells on to the bridge. While they stood on the bridge, an Acushnet crew member guided them through the cutter. They walked around the bridge and realized not much had changed other than the addition of new electronic systems. Stephen and his wife gathered around the wooden authenticated helm. As Stephen recalled taking the helm of the cutter while underway, his wife Harmonie, who brought a wedding book filled with photos, showed Stephen a picture of them standing on the fantail.

They began leaving the bridge and walked back outside into the pouring rain to walk down several narrow ladder wells toward the fantail.

During the walk back, Stephen recalled meeting his wife for the first time at a roller hockey rink in Eureka, Calif. He was playing hockey with a few of his friends two days before Christmas in 1997. Harmonie spotted him because he was wearing her favorite team shirt. She was quite amazed because three days earlier she had sat on Santa Clause’s lap wishing for a hockey player. She approached him and they began talking about hockey. They began seeing each other more, dating and eventually sending letters while Stephen was underway in the Bering Sea on the Acushnet. When he got back from the Bering Sea patrol he asked Harmonie to marry him.

The idea of getting married on the fantail was not their original plan. They were set on heading to the courthouse to receive their certificate. His friend mentioned of getting married on the fantail while the Acushnet was in “Full Dress,” which means it is lined with flags from the bow to the top of the mast and to the stern of the ship on the 4th of July. There are only two required days a year a ship must be in “Full Dress” and this was one of them. Stephen’s shipmates would help set up an area for family and friends to stand.

“It felt like everything just fell into place,” Stephen said. “When you have great shipmates helping you out, it makes everything easy. Even the night before the wedding, I was relaxed and not freaking out.”

When Stephen, Harmonie and Brendan made it down the last narrow ladder well, they realized it was an experience of a lifetime. Stephen and his wife held hands and didn’t let go of each other the entire time they stood on the fantail. Even the pouring rain could not dim the bright smiles they had on each others face. They walked over and stood at the area where they exchanged vows, then looked into their photo album pointing to the same location they were standing.

The Morrison family made their way off the Acushnet. As they stood on the bow of the Acushnet and remembered the great memories. Stephen and Harmonie kissed each other before departing the Acushnet one last time.

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