Coast Guard Remembers Fallen Waesche Crew Member
Friday, January 31 2014
On Thursday, the Coast Guard mourned the loss of a service member who was critically injured on duty in Alaska.
Petty Officer Travis Obendorf, of the cutter Waesche, was hurt while rescuing a fishing crew near Cold Bay. More than 700 of his shipmates, friends and family gathered to pay their respects at a service in Alameda, California.
Alex Emslie has more.
[sound of gun salute and trumpet playing “Taps”]
A sea of Coast Guard service members in deep blue dress uniforms looked on as the branch’s top official Commandant Admiral Robert Papp spoke directly to Travis Obendorf’s family.
Papp: "He was a good man, an honorable man who was loved by all who knew him. You can see that in the faces of the all the shipmates that are here today. The world is a better place, and the Coast Guard is a better service because he lived among us."
The twenty-eight year old died in a Seattle hospital in December, more than a month after he sustained a severe head injury while helping to rescue twenty-two crew members of the stranded Alaska Mist fishing vessel.
Obendorf was in the bow of a small boat, bringing five Alaska Mist crew members to the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. He was preparing to secure the boat when a heavy swell surged and catapulted him into the console.
Captain John McKinley is commanding officer of the Waesche. He recalled a compassionate, friendly man called “OB” by those close to him.
McKinley: "As one of the closest shipmates noted, ‘He cared about his friends a lot, and he was one of the truest and most compassionate friends I have ever had. The more I get to know his family, it’s not hard to see where he developed his strong character and moral compass. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Thank you for sharing Travis with us.’
OB was a trusted friend and respected shipmate to all. Those who knew him and served along side him: he showed us all what courage, commitment and devotion to duty are all about."
Obendorf was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal at the ceremony. He was previously awarded five other medals and three letters of commendation.
Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft, Coast Guard commander of the Pacific area, said it was no surprise that Obendorf volunteered to launch into the treacherous Bering Sea waters to rescue the fishermen.
Zukunft: "Your son was a friend. He was a shipmate, a leader, a beacon of strength and admiration, and above all, a hero. On that note, it was Mark Twain who said, ‘We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.’
So I close in extending an ovation to the heroic life of BM3 Travis Obendorf, a round of applause."
[sound of applause]
Obendorf’s parents, Ron Obendorf and Laurie Powell, and stepparents Dawn Obendorf and Chad Powell of Idaho Falls attended the funeral.