Walk of Coast Guard History slab recognizes senior enlisted position

Alexander Sinn • Aug 3, 2019 at 9:00 AM

The newest stone slab on Grand Haven’s waterfront will recognize the most senior enlisted position within the U.S. Coast Guard, half a century after its creation.

The new historical point on the Walk of Coast Guard History, unveiled Friday at Grand Haven City Hall, recognizes the formation of the Coast Guard’s master chief petty officer rank in 1969.

Rear Adm. Donna Cottrell, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, said the history of the Coast Guard can be viewed as a series of choices. She recognized Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard’s only United States Medal of Honor recipient. Munro was killed in World War II during an amphibious landing operation in which he volunteered to rescue Marines under fire.

The master chief position was created out of humility, Cottrell explained.

“It’s about right choices, and recognizing our weaknesses and our fallibilities, and we need people to give wise counsel,” Cottrell said. “That’s what the master chief does.”

Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith presented Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Vanderhaden, the 13th person to hold the title in Coast Guard history, with the monument. Vanderhaden said his role is the ultimate “commitment to service.”

“When people look at command structure, it looks like a pyramid,” Vanderhaden said. “But for the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, that’s not the case. That command structure is flipped upside down. The more senior you get, the more people you work for.”

The new plaque will join 24 others that recognize historical events in Coast Guard history. A plaque recognizes the first Coast Guard Festival fireworks launched on Aug. 3, 1940. Another features Cmdr. Bruce Melnick, the first Coast Guard astronaut in space, in 1990.

Images of the slabs were on display this week at City Hall, 519 Washington Ave., and they can be viewed at Escanaba Park on Grand Haven’s waterfront.

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