Dedication on display

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray, a crewmember from Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, helps Joseph Moran raise the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray, a crewmember from Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, helps Joseph Moran raise the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

On the morning of May 25, 2015, Joseph Moran raised the American flag for the Beach Winds condominium near Cocoa Beach and set it to half-staff in honor of Memorial Day. Not too long afterwards, his daily routine was interrupted.

“I’m going to say about 45 minutes later, a young lady comes pulling in, asking if we live here,” said Moran. “She said, ‘Well, the halyard’s broke on your flag pole.’ She knows what a halyard is! So I say, ‘Are you in the military?’”

Why, yes, she is. Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray reported in to her first unit, Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, Florida, in March of 2015, and while she is still learning her role and responsibilities, she definitely knows what a halyard is.

“In bootcamp, I was the colors team captain,” said Gray. “For me, it’s always been something I’ve admired and respected even before I joined the Coast Guard. Our respect for the flag shows what kind of nation we are. It’s always been very dear to my heart.”

Gray was on the way to the beach with her family when she saw that something wasn’t right.

“Driving by, I was checking out at all the flags,” said Gray. “I like to see them all hung at half-mast for Memorial Day and such. When I noticed it, the flag was sticking very far from the flagpole and it looked like it was about to touch the ground.”

She had a very human conundrum.

“The first thought you have is you’re heading to the beach, do you stop and take the time or do you go.”

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray stands with the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray stands with the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

In the time it took one traffic light to turn green, she made up her mind. She turned around and found Moran. With her family in tow, she helped bring the flag down from the pole, folded it in the military manner and politely took her leave. It was a quick and painless effort on her part, but it made world of difference to Moran.

“This young lady was on her way to a beach or something and she took time, her own time, to come and help us not just lower it, but lower it properly and fold it,” said Moran. “I just want to say that as an American, I’m very proud of this young lady. If all my young kids were as good as her in the military, what a service we would have.”

Moran spent four years in the U.S. Navy, from 1970 to 1974, as a crewman aboard submarine tenders and with his brothers also being veterans of the Navy, the Army and Coast Guard, the flag means something special to him also. Seeing an 18-year-old with so much respect for our nation’s symbol even inspired the condo office administrator to write to the local newspaper about this simple act of patriotism. The letter was seen by her peers at the station, her command and even her company commander from boot camp.

It’s clear from her sheepish expression that this level of attention isn’t something she’d ever seek out on her own and when given the opportunity, she’s happy to hoist her mentor into her spotlight.

“I’ve known since I was 12 or 13 that I wanted to join the Coast Guard,” said Gray. “I have a friend who’s a chief and I live by his example. He’s done great things in his life, and I want to follow in his footsteps. Seeing what he’s done and the discipline he has in his life, I hope that I have that same discipline and respect he has.”

Her mentor is Chief Petty Officer Joshua Folckemer, a family friend in whom she found a role model, a teacher and almost a second father.

“He taught me lots of things, like how to work on cars to how to save money wisely,” said Gray. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be the woman I am and I wouldn’t be in the Coast Guard either.”

Remembering who we are, how we got here and celebrating those who helped us along the way is a long-standing American tradition, especially as the Fourth of July draws closer. Amid the smoke from the barbecues and the fireworks is a holiday for looking back at the service of others, service that allows us the ability to look forward with pride and optimism.

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray, a crewmember from Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, helps Joseph Moran fold the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

Seaman Apprentice Courtney Gray, a crewmember from Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet, helps Joseph Moran fold the American flag at the Beach Winds condominium in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June, 22, 2015. Gray had stopped by the condo complex on Memorial Day to help the staff fix an issue with their flag. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.

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