Semper Paratus: Coast Guard Cutter James Walsh
Anyone with ink on their skin knows that every tattoo tells a story. Such is the case for OBED gravel gunner James Walsh. On his right sleeve rests a compass rose, a ship, and a lighthouse, an apropos homage to his time serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Decades before he became the regional powerhouse on the Colorado front range that he is today, Walsh was just a young SoCal punk, with tons of energy and few outlets for it. “I wasn’t cycling back then,” Walsh says. “I just surfed my brains out everywhere and ran to stay in shape.”
Like many young Americans, Walsh saw joining the Coast Guard as a chance to develop a career, in a way that schools weren’t yet prepared to do in the late 1990s: in computer tech.
So Walsh signed up for Coast Guard boot camp in 1999 in Cape May, New Jersey, and went on a wing and a prayer. “I was playing baseball in college and having fun, but felt like my education was going nowhere,” Walsh says. "I wanted to get into computers and network engineering, except at the time there were no colleges offering that—but the military was.” Sailing through boot camp, Walsh was in.
A protectorate of national border security in a maritime environment, the U.S. Coast Guard safeguards our coastal and inland waterways. For Walsh, he found his home behind a computer, as an electronics technician. His service saw him stationed in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Petaluma Calif, and his focus was tuned to electronics networking. Stationed at the East Coast Communications Center, his work was far from boring. “It was top secret stuff, which was super rad.”
And yeah, he did head out on a Coast Guard cutter doing the exciting stuff that draws young men and women into the armed forces. Namely, protecting the coast.
“When I was stationed on a boat in Florida, we basically did drug ops and patrolled the coast of Florida looking for and boarding suspicious vessels. No great stories, other than finding boats smuggling drugs.”
Walsh left the Coast Guard in 2004, with his professional career in the private sector in electronics technology shaped fully by his time serving his country. “My time in the Coast Guard set me on my current career path, a job that I love,” he says. “It also taught me a lot of discipline and how to be efficient with my time. It set up the life I have now.”
As selfless as military service is, it’s an opportunity he continues to give back to today.
“Joining the Coast Guard is the best decision I've ever made,” he says. “I’m still a member of Team RWB (a health and wellness community for military veterans-ed),and active with other veterans. Regardless of your stance, serving your country—signing your life away for at least four years—, it’s something the majority of Americans don’t do. I don’t care what branch you served in, or what your role was, it’s something to be proud of. It’s a huge commitment, and I never take it for granted.”
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