WHEELING - A dreary, rain-filled day did little to dampen the spirits of a group of Coast Guard reservists who gathered at the Wagon Shed at Oglebay Park to swap stories and admiration for a job well done.
From 1954 to 1995, Warwood and later Moundsville, were home to the Wheeling Coast Guard Reserve Unit. The reservists constantly trained for non-combat events along the country's waterways, including the Ohio River from Moundsville to New Martinsville and along the Wheeling waterfront.
In 1995, most all reserve units were incorporated into the regular Coast Guard with units in Pittsburgh and Huntington.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Former commanders of the Wheeling Coast Guard Reserve Unit, from left, John Welch, John Richmond, William Tangalos and Jon Minor gather at Oglebay for a reunion Saturday. Not shown is Mike Stango.
As a Reservist Commander, John Welch of Dayton, said he and other reservists he served with beginning 25 years ago have developed lifelong friendships.
That's what brings them together for reunions at Oglebay.
"When the Wheeling Reserve Unit went away, these two (new) units filled the gap," Welch said. "We had a very successful unit in Wheeling. We had three commanding officers who went as high as you can get in the service."
Welch explained that today, there are four aspects to every Coast Guard unit. They include active, reservists, civilians and the volunteers or auxiliary.
"We are part-time, serving peace time events. We train to mobilize at a moment's notice in time of need," Welch said.
Ed Sherman of Wheeling said the Wheeling Coast Reserve Unit members amassed 500 years of service among their ranks, something he said they are proud to talk about.
"We saw our share of hurricanes and we helped with the Mid-West floods in 1993. We are what you call a surge force, ready to go when they need us," Sherman said.
The role of the U.S. Coast Guard and especially its reservists has increased since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, making them a vital arm of the United States military.
Sherman said when people talk about the military, they mention the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy "they often forget about the U.S. Coast Guard."
"We might not be in combat, but we're there for any national emergency when they need us," he added.