Honoring a legacy of life-saving

Charlene James Benoit, great-great niece of Capt. Joshua James, smashes a bottle across the bow of the Ingalls-built National Security Cutter James (WMSL 754). Supporting her are (left to right) Capt. Andrew Tiongson, the ship’s prospective commanding officer; Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; and Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. Photo by Lance Davis

Charlene James Benoit, great-great-niece of Capt. Joshua James, smashes a bottle across the bow of the James. Supporting her are Capt. Andrew Tiongson, the ship’s prospective commanding officer, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger, and Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. Photo by Lance Davis.

“Here and there may be found men in all walks of life who neither wonder nor care how much or how little the world thinks of them. They pursue life’s pathway, doing their appointed tasks without ostentation, loving their work for the work’s sake, content to live and do in the present rather than look for the uncertain rewards of the future. To them notoriety, distinction, or even fame, acts neither as a spur nor a check to endeavor, yet they are really among the foremost of those who do the world’s work. Joshua James was one of these.”

Sumner Kimball, superintendent, U. S. Life-Saving Service.

Joshua James is one of the service's most celebrated lifesavers credited with saving hundreds of lives from the age of 15 when he first joined the Massachusetts Humane Society until his death at the age of 75 while on duty with the U.S. Life-Saving Service. He was honored with the highest medals of the Humane Society, the United States, and many other organizations. His father, mother, brother, wife, and son were also heroic lifesavers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Joshua James is one of the service’s most celebrated lifesavers credited with saving hundreds of lives. His father, mother, brother, wife, and son were also heroic lifesavers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

An unassuming man of few words, Capt. Joshua James is remembered as the most prolific lifesaver in the 224-year history of the U.S. Coast Guard. He is credited with saving hundreds of lives from the age of 15, when he first joined the Massachusetts Humane Society, until his death in 1902 at the age of 75 while on duty with the U.S. Life-Saving Service. On Saturday, his legacy was honored at a christening ceremony for a national security cutter that will bear the name “James.”

“Joshua James exhibited a commitment to excellence that permeates the Coast Guard to this day,” said Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger. “He embodied the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty and the guiding principles articulated in our new Commandant’s Direction long before we ever wrote them down.”

James’ great-great niece, Charlene James Benoit, serves as the ship’s sponsor and had the priviege of smashing a bottle across the ship’s bow while reciting the words, “May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.”

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger stands with extended family and descendants of Capt. Joshua James, including ship sponsor Charlene James Benoit, after the christening of the cutter in Pascagoula, Miss., Aug. 16, 2014. Benoit is the great, great niece of Capt. Joshua James, a Coast Guard legacy from the Life Saving Service days of the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger stands with extended family and descendants of Capt. Joshua James, including ship sponsor Charlene James Benoit. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

The christening ceremony is a time honored tradition and one of several in the life of a Coast Guard cutter. The James will move on to the challenges of sea trials where the cutter and its crew will push each other to determine their respective operational limits. Once sea trials are complete, the James will be formally commissioned and join the fleet as “Coast Guard Cutter James” and will take its place alongside national security cutters Bertholf, Waesche, Stratton and Hamilton. Whereas Joshua James did so off the coast of Massachussets, the cutter that honors his legacy will serve in remote and challenging environments like the Arctic, transit much of the Western Hemisphere in support of national security missions, protect the global supply chain, provide overwatch as energy demands lead to offshore extraction of resources and, of course, do its part to save hundreds of lives just as its namesake did more than a century ago.

“It is fitting that the crew of James has chosen the motto ‘Brave & Faithful Service,’” said Neffenger. “As the Coast Guard enters new eras of uncertainty, the crew’s bravery and faithful service to nation will be critical to maintaining a persistent presence in areas of greatest need.”

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