Petersburg Pilot -

Event aims to show support for Coast Guard

 


The Sons of Norway Hall will hold a Coast Guard Appreciation Reception on Friday night hosted by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. The event is open to the public and the goal is simple: thank Coast Guard crews and families for their service and many contributions to Petersburg.

David Byrne spearheaded the effort to create the event, but he admits it was not an original idea. He got the idea from a Coast Guard appreciation dinner in Kodiak sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

“I didn’t really think of it, I just stole the idea,” Byrne says. “I just felt very strongly that we needed to have one here.”

The idea might have come from another community, but a huge motivating factor in Byrne’s decision to explore the possibility of an appreciation event came from his day job at Wells Fargo. One day, Byrne saw a local member of the Coast Guard in the bank and did not recognize the man.

“I just thought, ‘ya know I don’t really know many of the Coast Guard folks,’” Byrne says. “And we don’t seem to be reaching out to them as much as we should be as a community.”

Byrne says an appreciation reception just seemed like the right thing to do, and a good way to say thank you. The only hard part was making a connection with the Coast Guard. Enter Kristen Zarlengo whose family is quite involved in the Coast Guard. Zarlengo used her love of the guard and her connections to bridge the gap and bring the Coast Guard onboard by introducing Byrne to the Ombudsman and local commander.

“Once the Coast Guard got interested, it all just kind of started to happen,” Byrne says. “Kristen really showed interest and has become a driving force in putting this thing together.”

Byrne presented the idea to the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and recommended they sponsor the event, and the rest is history. Once word got out, local businesses and community members started donating everything from food platters to their time to support the event, he says.

Zarlengo has two sons at the Coast Guard Academy and her husband was also enlisted in the Coast Guard. Zarlengo knew of other communities that had events to recognize their local Coast Guard, and she distinctly remembers seeing a banner that said “Sitka Loves Our Coast Guard” when there on a fishing trip.

“I just thought that was so awesome,” she says of the banner. “They do so much for us. I mean we are a fishing fleet town, so everybody has been touched by the Coast Guard at some point.”

For Byrne and Zarlengo, they do not know if the event will happen every year, but they are open to the idea. Friday night’s festivities will begin with a meet and greet social at 5 p.m., with refreshments and snacks. The main portion of the event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with the Coast Guard presentation of the Colors.

The finale of the celebration will be dedicated to two local stories of Coast Guard rescues by Charlie Christensen and Steve Berry.

Berry will recognize the local heroes by sharing his experience of recently being rescued. Berry was captaining the tender Kupreanof on June 10 and the vessel sank on its way to Bristol Bay. The event was captured on film, and luckily Berry and his crew of three were able to be escape.

“I am the new kid on the block, because I am one of the latest to be rescued,” Berry says. “I wish it never would have happened but it did. They saved me and my crew, no doubt about it.”

Berry refers to himself as a “quiet guy” and admits he might be a little nervous to get up in front of a large group of people, but says he is up for the task because the event is long overdue.

“I think it’s a great idea, and it’s one of those things that should have been done a long time ago,” he says. “I certainly hope the town shows up in force, these guys mean a lot to us locally.”

 

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