Diversity: “It’s not just a program, it’s a state of being”

>Yesterday marked the kickoff of Black History Month, the annual observance to recognize the national, social, cultural, scientific and political contributions by black americans.

While there are still those in organizations throughout corporate America who view diversity as fad or organizational buzzword, the Commandant of the Coast Guard has mandated that the Coast Guard be recognized as an “Employer of Choice,” in which every individual has the opportunity to prosper and contribute to the Coast Guard mission. Senior leadership across the service is challenging those archaic views and attitudes, and encouraging Coast Guard members to embrace and manage diversity as a way to achieve mission execution.
Rear Adm. Peter Neffenger, the Ninth District Commander, said it best at the recent Commanding Officers conference, challenging our leaders to embrace diversity not as only a program, but also as a state of being.
Here at “Your Great Lakes Coast Guard,” we’d like to share some stories of great Americans, both past and present, who have helped shape the world in which we all live, love and operate. Some stories will feature our own Guardians, others are just inspiring stories of triumph, but our hope is that each fills you with a sense of pride about your neighbors, service members and Americans who have helped shape this country.
Today, I’d like to share two stories with you.
The first is a video news piece about Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King who discussed her background and how she has accomplished her historic success in the U.S. Army with NBC Nightly News last night. NBC has partnered with the website, theGrio.com, to profile African Americans who are making history every day.
The second is a fantastic story about a little-known Coast Guard hero, Charles W. David, a Stewards-Mate First Class who served aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche on North Atlantic Convoy duty during World War II. The following story comes from our Historian’s website:
Charles David first enlisted in the Coast Guard on 6 March 1941 in his hometown of New York, New York.

On the night of 3 February 1943 the U.S. Army transport USS Dorchester was torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Greenland. When the Comanche came to the aid of the survivors of Dorchester in the frigid waters, David was one of the few Comanche crewmen who volunteered to dive overboard to help rescue those in need–practicing the newly devised “rescue retriever” technique whereby the rescuer dived overboard and tied a line around a hypothermic survivor who was then hoisted aboard the cutter. One of the men he saved was a fellow Comanche crewman, the cutter’s executive officer, Ensign Robert W. Anderson. Anderson too had volunteered to dive into the water to rescue survivors but had become unable to pull himself out of the water due to the onset of hypothermia and exposure.
David died a few days later from pneumonia contracted during his heroic efforts to save the stricken survivors of the Dorchester and LT Anderson. He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his bravery. He left behind a widow, Kathleen W. David, and a young son, Neil Adrian David. They received his medal in a ceremony along with then-Lieutenant Anderson (Left).
Later in the war Anderson participated in a War Bond drive and described what happened that night to a number of radio talk shows. The citation read, in part:
For heroic conduct in effecting the rescue of survivors from the torpedoed SS DORCHESTER on 3 February 1943 when the benumbed survivors were unable because of heavy seas and freezing wind to make any effort to climb on board the rescuing ship David volunteered for the dangerous task of going over the side and working in the rough water to assist the exhausted survivors in reaching the safety of the USCGC COMANCHE. Disregarding all discomfort and danger to himself, he worked until he and fellow volunteers had rescued a total of 93 survivors from certain death in the steadily mounting sea.
Adam Artigliere, grandson of Ensign Anderson, described his thoughts of Charles David and his sacrifice: “If it were not for [Charles David], my grandfather would have been left by the Comanche in the confusion and would have surely died. My understanding is that there were only a few volunteers to go into the water to attempt to save the soldiers from the Dorchester. For someone in Mr. David’s position to step up and volunteer to go into the water to save those men clearly shows what kind of a person Charles David was. What a selfless act. . .My family and the families of the dozens of men Mr. David helped to save that evening are forever indebted to him.”

If you know of any compelling stories of our Guardians that you’d like to share, please send them to us, and we’ll post them to the blog.

Check back in a few days to see a story of a Chicago-native who began his career in the Coast Guard as an E1 Stewards-Mate during World War II, and retired as a commander after 35 years of service.

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