Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Cmdr. Bill McKinstry

Friday, January 4, 2019

Originally posted by Jasmine Mieszala.

Written by Buddy Dye
Coast Guard Incident Management Assist Team

Cmdr. Bill McKinstry, executive officer of the Coast Guard incident management assist team (CG IMAT), received the Foundation for Coast Guard History’s individual achievement award during a ceremony at the CG IMAT in Norfolk, Virgina, Dec. 10, 2018.

The Foundation’s executive director Gary Thomas presented the award to McKinstry for volunteering to serve on the fast response cutter (FRC) naming tiger team.  The team was formed to identify and locate relatives of former enlisted personnel heroes who were under consideration as possible FRC namesakes.

The enlisted workforce has often been underrepresented in the writings of Coast Guard history and on the names of cutters and buildings, Thomas explained. McKinstry’s research was crucial to not only bringing the names of these heroes to cutters, but in allowing the families to be recognized at the commissioning ceremonies.

“I have spoken with several family members who said being at those events have been some of the most memorable experiences of their lives,” Thomas said.Gary Thomas, executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History's individual achievement award for his service on the tiger naming team to help identify relatives of former enlisted Coast Guard heroes.

The citation to accompany the award read in part, “in addition to his efforts as part of the naming tiger team, his work as lead investigator for the Coast Guard Atlantic Area historian also led to discovery of several famous enlisted members that have been added to the list of influential personnel on the Coast Guard Historian’s website. By working to ensure the story of enlisted heroes is told, you have added to the body of works that ensures the people who served in the Coast Guard and her predecessor services will not be forgotten.”

McKinstry’s love of history and passion for research is what drove him to volunteer for this project.

“I truly love doing this and get the satisfaction of ensuring enlisted heroes receive the recognition they deserve,” he said.

For example, FRC 45 will be named in honor of Emlen Tunnell, who saved the lives of two shipmates in separate incidents during his Coast Guard career and was posthumously awarded the Sliver Lifesaving Medal. McKinstry had previously worked on locating surviving family members prior to the renaming of the gymnasium at Coast Guard Island, Alameda, California, in honor of Tunnell.

“I received a cold call from a lady named Nancy Shaver, who asked if she could attend the ceremony,” McKinstry explained.

As it turns out Tunnell saved her father, Petty Officer 1st Class Fred Shaver who was a motor machinist mate, from a fire after their ship, the USS Etamin, was attacked during World War II. She wanted to thank his family personally.

Gary Thomas, executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History's individual achievement award for his service on the tiger naming team to help identify relatives of former enlisted Coast Guard heroes. “If it wasn’t for Tunnell, I wouldn’t be here,” Shaver said.

Tunnell went on to play professional football for the New York Giants and was the first African American inducted into the pro football hall of fame in 1967.

McKinstry has been doing research for the Coast Guard Historian’s Office since 2007.

“I truly love doing this,” he said. “It’s not often that one can combine their vocation and passion together in one fell swoop.”

The Foundation for Coast Guard History is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to promote the recognition and prestige of the United States Coast Guard by emphasizing its illustrious past and contributions to the nation.

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