Welcome home, Northland

Published 8:20 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suffolk’s Lt. j.g. Joe DiRenzo IV and the 105 or so officers and enlisted men and women aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northland had very little say in the matter of when they would return home from their recent two-month deployment. Those decisions, in the parlance of those who serve in all branches of the U.S. armed forces, are above the pay grade of junior officers, and, in the case of the Coast Guard, such decisions have much to do with the types of situations they encounter while at sea.

But it’s a safe bet that if the coast guardsmen aboard the Northland had had a choice in the matter, they could not have picked a better time to arrive back at their home port at Integrated Support Command in Portsmouth than on Independence Day.

The Coast Guard is an oft-forgotten, but vital, branch of the U.S. armed forces, and its members are no less patriotic and no less desirous to spend the year’s biggest patriotic holiday with family and friends. By the time the Northland had docked in Portsmouth last Thursday, many of the area parades and special events in honor of the Fourth of July had already been finished, but there was still plenty of time to spend the day picnicking with family members and watching the fireworks that night.


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It was an appropriate homecoming for the guardsmen, whose deployment consisted of law enforcement and search-and-rescue activities off the coast of Haiti. They transported more than 1,250 pounds of seized cocaine from Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay to Miami, Fla., where it was offloaded and transferred to the Drug Enforcement Agency. They also found a Haitian merchant vessel that was adrift because of a cracked engine block, leaving its crew stranded. By the time the 15 crewmen were rescued, they had been without food and water for two days.

Those kinds of sea stories are part and parcel to life in the U.S. Coast Guard, which usually projects a different kind of military power than the other branches of the U.S. armed services. For those who, like the rescued Haitian crew of a drifting merchant vessel, find themselves in need of the Coast Guard’s help, the power is no less awe-inspiring for its sometimes-humanitarian focus.

Welcome home to Lt. j.g. Joe DiRenzo and the rest of the crew of the Cutter Northland. A grateful nation thanks them for their part in making America the land of the free and home of the brave.