‘He refused to give in’

Everyone who knew Brian loved him, his humor and smile will be dearly missed. Brian lived his life bravely with a song in his heart. He never complained or blamed anyone for his illness. Brian died with dignity and love in his heart. You will have never known a better man, or a more honorable man.

Lt. Brian Mackey served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 24 years. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Brian Mackey served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 24 years. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Brian Mackey was a husband, brother, friend and shipmate, serving his country for 24 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. After fighting a battle with terminal brain cancer for more than two years, Mackey passed away in April 2013.

While Mackey may have passed, his strength and spirit live on in all those who served alongside him. A group of his loved ones and shipmates have been working together to honor Mackey; a man who faced life bravely regardless of circumstance.

Mackey enlisted in the service in 1989, rising through the ranks to chief petty officer. Motivated and devoted, even after achieving rank as a chief, he continued to promote and received a commission as a chief warrant officer. Ultimately, Mackey earned a commission as an officer with the rank of lieutenant. As a lieutenant, Mackey served aboard Coast Guard Cutter Active. He loved serving aboard the ship, but soon received life-altering news.

While aboard Active, Mackey began experiencing severe headaches and vision problems. Just before the holidays, his wife, Dawn, drove him to the emergency room. Mackey had advanced Glioblastoma brain cancer and the week before Christmas, underwent brain surgery.

It was during recovery from surgery, in April 2012, when Lt. Tim Andersen first met Mackey and his family. Andersen was assigned as a casualty assistance calls officer, an official representative of the command who provides information, resources and assistance to families.

Lt. Brian Mackey enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1989. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Brian Mackey enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1989. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“During that time I got to know him and his wife Dawn, and came to know the motivated, honorable and proud person he was over that year leading up to his passing,” said Andersen.

“Despite his bleak diagnosis I got to see his strength, his loving nature, his abundant humor and most unforgettably his laugh,” added Andersen.

On April 2, 2013, Mackey passed away peacefully with Dawn by his side.

Andersen, and Mackey’s shipmates, all knew they wanted to recognize Mackey’s service. They began to brainstorm and one day it just clicked.

“Cmdr. Mike Campbell and I were talking one night and he asked me if I had heard about Tom’s Run,” said Andersen. “I had, but knew very little about it. But that conversation was all it took to convince me that Brian was deserving of an honor like Tom’s Run.”

Out of that conversation, the idea for Brian’s Run Relay was born.

“We saw the amazing things that the annual Tom’s Run was doing to memorialize Chief Warrant Officer Tom Brooks and we wanted to do the same for Brian,” said Andersen.

To be held May 30, the event is a Coast Guard Running Club event, which has been mirrored upon and will happen concurrently with the Tom’s Run Relay on the East Coast. The relay run will take place over 60 miles of the Pacific Northwest’s coastline, ending at the Coast Guard base in Port Angeles. It’s a perfect place for the relay as it was the very place Mackey served and was stationed several times throughout his career.

One of the most important elements of the relay is the finish line; the point is not to reach the finish line first, but to all reach it together.

The Brian's Run Relay logo was drawn from a photo of Lt. Brian Mackey jumping his boat from the water while training with a Coast Guard's maritime safety and security team.

The Brian’s Run Relay logo was drawn from a photo of Lt. Brian Mackey jumping his boat from the water while training with a Coast Guard’s maritime safety and security team.

“The concept of finishing together is just fitting of Brian’s personality,” said Andersen. “He was a very meticulous person and I think he would enjoy the challenge faced by the teams to finish together!”

As the teams run collectively – not competitively – Andersen says they will all be holding the memory of Mackey in their hearts.

“One line that has stuck with me from his obituary was, ‘He refused to give in and always believed he would return to his ship,’” said Andersen.

Mackey refused to give in. His shipmates carry on this legacy of perseverance as they remember Mackey’s legacy of strength and service.

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