William T. Bowers of Clearwater has been appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a sign of that country's gratitude for the contribution Bowers made toward its liberation during World War II.
The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit.
Bowers, a Navy veteran, was part of an all-volunteer group assigned to patrol and defend a large coastal area of the Mediterranean Sea, including France, in plywood PT boats. In these small, heavily armed craft, he and his fellow sailors engaged the enemy and sank ships of all descriptions. The boats were also utilized to locate mines.
"Other Navy men sometimes referred to us as a bunch of insane men in wooden boats," recalled the 89-year-old.
For its defense of Mediterranean countries during the conflict, Bowers' group was awarded the European Theater Ribbon with three Battle Stars.
Bowers and his mates saw a lot of action, especially during the invasion of Elba during the summer of 1944. "We lost a lot of our fellow PT boats during that time but were told that our little PT boats were responsible for sinking more enemy tonnage than any other boats in that area during the war."
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Chief Warrant Officer Morgan Dudley, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station Sand Key, initiated a unique program to reward and motivate Coast Guard auxiliary members who successfully accomplish a search and rescue incident for the Coast Guard.
The two-part program is dubbed "Keys of Success." Every member on an authorized patrol in the local waters who completes a search and rescue case is awarded a blue and white key on a specially designed key ring. In addition, the boat involved in the search and rescue case is awarded a special decal designed with a life ring and Coast Guard Auxiliary emblem.
Search and rescue cases can be as simple as towing a disabled boat and its passengers from the Gulf of Mexico or the Intracoastal Waterway to their home port or boat ramp. Other cases could be a search following a flare sighting which involves hours of executing specialized patterns designed to find the boaters in distress. Often, boaters are rescued from the water because their vessel has capsized or sunk.
When asked if Keys of Success was responsible for the high numbers performed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Dudley said, "Regardless of the reason, the auxiliarists in Division 11 have saved lives that were in danger on our seas and assisted numerous boaters in distress. The Keys of Success is one way the men and women of Coast Guard Station Sand Key can recognize the auxiliary's outstanding efforts."
The Coast Guard Auxiliary Division 11 members cover the waterways from Aripeka in the north to John's Pass in the south; the same area protected by USCG Station Sand Key. There are local auxiliary units in Hudson, New Port Richey, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater and Madeira Beach.
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Clearwater Yacht Club recently formed the Clearwater Olympic Sailing Committee to raise funds for siblings Zach and Paige Railey, who will sail for the United States in the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Zach, who earned a silver medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics, will compete in the Finn class, while his sister, Paige will sail in the Laser Radial class.
Both Raileys began as youth sailors at Clearwater Yacht Club and continued to improve their skills by competing in local and regional regattas. During the last five years they have participated in many international regattas to prepare for Olympic competition.
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Clearwater resident Fredrick Stein, attorney adviser with the Transportation Security Administration in Tampa, completed a master of arts degree in security studies Dec. 16 at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, Calif.
During the 18-month program, Stein collaborated on current policy, strategy and organizational design challenges with the leading experts from all fields of Homeland Security to include: intelligence, counter terrorism, Islamic scholars, psychologists, academics, domestic and international law enforcement, and first responders. His thesis on the homeland and national security implications of America's dependence on foreign oil was nominated for the CHDS Outstanding Thesis Award.
Stein is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He joined TSA in 2005 after six years in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps. Stein is responsible for providing legal counsel to more than 800 employees, including the Tampa federal security director and senior staff.