Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Spark Memories for Retired U.S. Coast Guard Officer
On an average day, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) conducts 45 search-and-rescue operations, saves 10 lives and protects over $1.2 million in property. But lately, the USCG has been hard at work rescuing thousands of people in Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall. Their heroic efforts caught the attention of millions across the country, including Edgemere resident Paul Lamb. The 88-year-old former Coast Guard officer can relate to what other members of the Coast Guard are experiencing. Lamb During his 25-year service, he responded to hurricanes in Bermuda, Florida and Alabama. He rescued people from flood waters, hoisted them off cruise ships and saved fishermen from vessels. Lamb says being in the Coast Guard was a blessing because he helped dozens of people over his career. He was even awarded a Lifesaving Medal for his efforts.
“I had a guilty conscience because I wasn’t able to help during the recent storms,” said Lamb. “I retired from the Coast Guard many years ago, but it will always be a part of me. The men and women who sacrificed to assist people during these catastrophic storms are true heroes. I know they went hours without food and sleep to make sure lives were spared. Seeing the photos and videos of the heroism brings out a lot of different emotions. The Coast Guard is a tight-knit family, and they consider those they assist as part of the family, too. People put their lives in the hands of these officers, and seeing the gratitude in their faces means everything.”
Lamb was born in Fountain County, Ind. and was the youngest of eleven children. During WWII, four of his brothers served, and that inspired him to enlist in the Coast Guard on September 11, 1947. He served as a radio operator until 1956 when he went to Navy flight training to learn to operate helicopters. Lamb spent the next 16 years serving his country. He was stationed in Bermuda, Rhode Island, Florida, Alabama, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes. During his service, he experienced many ups and downs, but left the Coast Guard with great memories and was proud to be a part of it. He went on to graduate from the University of South Florida in 1977 and taught school until 1996 when he retired.
“I owe everything to the Coast Guard,” said Lamb. “They educated me, took care of my health, fed me and put a roof over my head. I was always someone who volunteered for everything. In the end, I moved up the ranks to Full Commander, that’s equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel. It instilled values in me I still use to this day.”
Lamb still has a home in St. Petersburg, Fla. and is thankful it wasn’t heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma. He recently moved to Edgemere, a nonprofit Life Plan Community in Dallas, and appreciates the senior living community’s support.
“Mr. Lamb is an inspirational resident with an excellent story,” said Luis Argote, executive director of Edgemere. “We find it fascinating to hear about his time in the Coast Guard and the different things he experienced. It’s heartwarming that he wishes he was still an active officer and could help with rescue efforts in Texas and Florida. Mr. Lamb has a heart of gold. We are thankful for his service and look forward to hearing additional stories in the future.”