‘Zaching’ aboard Munro

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Munro "Zaching." U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Munro “Zaching.” U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Zach Lederer was 18 when he stared defiantly at a camera and flexed his muscles. The pose, so common in weight rooms and sporting complexes, was a rare sight where he sat – a hospital bed. Lederer, diagnosed with brain cancer for the second time in his life, had just undergone brain surgery in January 2012. Doctors were able to remove part of a cancerous tumor and just an hour out of surgery he wanted to show strength.

The single image has inspired thousands around the world. Of those thousands was the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Munro.

Lederer, now 20, continues his battle. After it was discovered the cancer had spread, he was placed on life support. More recently, Lederer was taken off life support and placed in hospice care. His strength is evident now more than ever, and junior crewman Seaman Edward Farley wanted to show his support.

The original photo of Zach Lederer showing strength just hours after brain surgery. Photo courtesy of zachingagainstcancer.org.

The original photo of Zach Lederer showing strength just hours after brain surgery. Photo courtesy of zachingagainstcancer.org.

“I received an email from my family detailing what was happening with Zach back at home and figured I might be able to see if there was anything we could do to show him our support,” said Farley.

He approached his supervisor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Emmons, and before long the entire crew was “Zaching” on the Bering Sea during quarters, a daily all-hands meeting aboard a ship.

“It felt good to see the crew come together after hearing the story of Zach during quarters for the photo. The overall morale of the crew increased dramatically just from being able to show their support for such a great cause,” said Seaman Ashley Valine.

“It was nice to be able to support the community at such a great distance and to know that what we did had such an positive impact as a whole in supporting Zach and his family,” added Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathon Smith.

Farley said while the idea of the crew coming together was a simple request initially, it was the meaning behind it that was more significant. It wasn’t about the photo; it was about supporting a young man who had been battling cancer since he was 11.

“To be able to support a young man that I have known to battle this for almost his whole life, who has overcome so many difficult hurdles and achieved so much in life, is a such a heartwarming experience,” said Farley.

Crewmembers aboard Munro were inspired by Lederer’s story and sent out emails of their own to shipmates at other units. Word of “Zaching” spread through the Coast Guard and before long more than 35 units had submitted photos of their own.

“Knowing that there are people not only supporting my simple request but supporting this young man whom some have never met or heard of before is something you only experience once in life,” added Farley.

Coast Guard Cutter Munro joined men and women from around the world in "Zaching." Photo courtesy of zachingagainstcancer.org.

Coast Guard Cutter Munro joined men and women from around the world in “Zaching.” Photo courtesy of zachingagainstcancer.org.

“I thought it was a cool thing the ship could do to show our support and I was surprised at how quickly it grew to be supported by so many other members of the Coast Guard,” said Chief Petty Officer Robert England.

When Lederer was interviewed about “Zaching” – a moment that has caused a movement – he said, “This is a symbol that supports all cancer patients.” But for the crew of Munro and the thousands of others who have struck the “Zaching” pose, it’s a symbol that represents more than that. The symbol is one of inspiration, fierce determination and the indomitable human spirit.

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