The appointment of Lt. Jess Shafer as commanding officer at U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment is both symbolically and substantively important. For anyone who started their service career there as an enlisted person to return, years later, as the top boss is an extraordinary professional achievement.
That the Coast Guard is overcoming antiquated gender biases in favor of recognizing talent speaks well both of the organization and Shafer.
Cape D station — while always highly valued by the people of the Lower Columbia and North Coast — has not been without problems. Nine years ago, top managers at the station were summarily relieved of command and transferred due to a “loss of confidence” among higher-ups.
Late last year, two younger male enlisted members were implicated in an alleged rape, that police said also involved sharing a video of the crime with an unknown number of other station personnel. Coast Guard District 13’s openness and speed in dealing with the matter have been unimpressive.
Shafer exemplifies the Coast Guard that acted with quiet heroism and competency to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, a response in which she participated. We look to her to be an inspiring leader on the local and regional level. Her qualification as a “surfman” — the top tier of professional maritime rescuers — should be more than enough to make every young enlistee stand up straighter and pay attention.
Society shouldn’t live by the gun
The experience of former Ilwaco Pastor David George in killing a violent gunman on June 17 in the Walmart parking lot in Tumwater, Washington, is worthy of deep consideration.
George, an impressive citizen during his decade-plus on the Long Beach Peninsula before moving to a ministry in Oakville in Grays Harbor County, is accurately called a hero for intervening when a carjacker assaulted innocent civilians. He clearly acted with deliberation during a fast-moving emergency, using a licensed concealed firearm to stop an attacker who otherwise might have caused more deaths and injuries. An EMT, George then immediately pivoted to providing first aid to one of the victims. It’s hard to imagine a more indispensable set of skills for the situation.
Watching a video of George struggling with the aftermath of killing a man — even someone who left him with few if any options — it’s clear he has a struggle ahead. What he did presents a daunting quandary for any true man of God, or indeed any moral person. It is good to see that he is well-supported by loved ones.
George’s actions were immediately made into a talking point by those who regard a citizenry carrying firearms as the only solution to America’s epidemic of mass shootings, as well as more mundane crimes. And this might perhaps be a valid point — if all armed citizens were like George, which is to say thoroughly trained, mature, calm, responsible and morally grounded. You can safely bet he does not leave weapons lying around where his grandchildren reach them, nor is he likely to commit suicide with a firearm. (Statistically, middle-aged men who own pistols are far more likely to turn them on themselves than use them for self-defense.)
Some of us are lucky in having Wild West ancestors who wore sidearms day in and day out as matter of personal protection. They worked extremely hard for communities in which being armed to the teeth wasn’t required. We should never surrender to once again becoming a “live by the gun, die by the gun” society.