WARRENSBURG — As she planned the Branch of Service Week at the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg, Latisha Koetting, supervisor of volunteer services, searched the internet in hopes of finding a Coast Guard association to come speak at Coast Guard Day on Friday, Nov. 8.
She said she found Coast Guard association members throughout the country but was struggling to find someone local.
That was until she found Larry Ryan.
Ryan is the president of the U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Sailors Association and lives in Clinton.
Koetting and Ryan met up and set up a time for Ryan to come speak to the veterans and other guests at the MVHW.
“We met at McDonald’s, he said look for the guy with the black Coast Guard hat and that is how we met,” Koetting said
Ryan kicked off the afternoon portion of Coast Guard Day with a presentation about the changes in the Coast Guard over time and about his time in service.
The Lightship Sailors were in service in the United States from 1820 until disbanding in 1983.
Ryan served four years on lightships.
“It seemed like 40, but it was only four,” he said.
He did one tour off the Delaware coast and two off the northern California coast.
Ryan enlisted in 1959 and retired in 1983.
“I would not trade it for anything,” he said.
With him, Ryan brought in a picture of the first ship he served on.
“I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did,” he said.
The Coast Guard during Ryan’s service
As Ryan showed a picture of the first boat he served on, he described how the Coast Guard is not the same today as it was when he served.
“It is nothing like that today, it is a totally different service today,” Ryan said.
Terry Neal, Warrensburg, added to Ryan’s presentation as he wore his old Coast Guard uniform.
Ryan told of how the main difference between a Coast Guard uniform and Navy uniform was the shield on the right-hand sleeve.
“I am just proud that I can still fit in my uniform 40 years later,” Neal joked.
Ryan said the Coast Guard has several areas of expertise.
“It is a different Coast Guard today than what Terry and I saw in our younger days,” he said.
He said the Coast Guard today has the same divisions as when he served but the big difference now is drug interdiction.
“The drug interdiction today is by far the most prominent thing they are doing besides search and rescue,” Ryan said.
He said another difference is the amount of aviation available.
“They have so many more helicopters now than we had, the budget is totally different,” Ryan said.
He also praised the amount of education those serving today have and have available to them.
“I will say without fear of contradiction, that those kids today are a lot sharper than we were,” Ryan said. “They are a sharp bunch. They are better educated. They are sharper on technology, we did not have technology, but they do now.”
Ryan also described how the regulations have changed as well.
One of the biggest differences in regulations he said is women in service.
When Ryan served, he said he had no women serving with him.
He said that is not the case today.
He also stated that there are just under 40,000 service members in the Coast Guard today.
Elements of the Coast Guard
Ryan described duties of the Coast Guard as search and rescue, aid and navigation and aviation.
The three basic roles of the Coast Guard are maritime safety, maritime security and maritime stewardship.
The Coast Guard operates under Homeland Security.
Under Ryan’s time, it was under the Department of Treasury.
However, if the president declares a time of war, the Coast Guard operates under the Navy.
Paying tribute to the Coast Guard
Ryan stated there is lots of buzz around Coast Guard veterans at this time as a Coast Guard museum is in the works in New London, Connecticut.
He said the cost of the museum is $200 million.
“This is going to be a highlight for a lot of us in the Coast Guard, we have never had a museum before,” Ryan said.