Coast Guard Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo was in Sitka on Friday to present some awards to Coast Guard personnel and members of the public.
Medals were given to Sitka resident Howard Merkel, as well as Sitka Mountain Rescue Captain Don Kluting and team members Gerald Gangle and Tyler Orbison.
On Jan. 21, 2012, Merkel launched his 27-foot boat into a winter storm to help a family stranded in Nakwasina Sound. He and a crew member pinpointed the location of the family and guided the Coast Guard and Sitka Mountain Rescue to them.
The Mountain Rescue team of Kluting, Gangle and Orbison went in and got the family, then transferred them to the heated cabin of Merkel’s boat, the Carpe Diem.
Merkel said the recognition from the Coast Guard meant a lot.
“I’m pretty honored,” Merkel said. “I really didn’t expect anything. I was doing anything I hope anybody would do for me in a time of need.”
An award also was given to Rose MacIntyre, who helped establish the Sitka Coast Guard Spouses and Women’s Association. She’s been responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in fundraising for the Coast Guard in Sitka. MacIntyre said she’s just trying to pay forward what was given to her.
“When I first got into the Coast Guard, marrying my husband, I had other women that welcomed me into the family,” MacIntyre said. “I feel like I just want to continue that with new families, especially coming up to Sitka.”
The Coast Guard also presented an award to Cmdr. Ward Sandlin, the commanding officer at Air Station Sitka. It honors his work with the Coast Guard in Clearwater, Fla., including the mobilization of Coast Guard rescue and relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010.