Within hours of Hurricane Katrina's destruction and flooding of New Orleans, Coast Guard helicopters and boats from bases up and down the Gulf Coast were there rescuing thousands of stranded survivors. Working around the clock in the ensuing days, personnel from Houston made nearly 700 rescues, and now some of them have been decorated for heroism and initiative. In a ceremony at their Houston base, 81 Coast Guardsmen were presented Distinguished Flying Crosses, Meritorious Service Medals and Air Medals. Captain John Korn of Corpus Christi says they were just doing their job.
"We're on call, like the fire department, so when things happpen we're quick to respond, and in this case it was just a huge response. So we're very quick to respond and we call in a bunch of extra assets when needed. These guys did great and heroic things and I'm glad to be part of the ceremony."
Korn says whether they were decorated or not, all the Coast Guardsmen sent the hurricane damaged area were acting in the agency's highest traditions.
"Saving lives is what we're all about. Every Coastie is a life saver. Kind of like the Marine Corps. Every marine is a rifleman, well every Coastie is a life saver. This was a great opportunity for the entire service to get involved with life saving actions.
In addition to rescuing people, personnel from Houston collected and air-lifted more than 170 thousand pounds of donated relief supplies to all coastal areas affected by the hurricane. A month after Katrina, they also rescued dozens of people in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.