"Mayday Mayday Mayday!" The call rings through the watch stander's ears from the radio, setting rescue efforts in motion. Heavy weather has consumed a fishing vessel and the four-man crew is fighting for survival in the frigid waters of Southeast Alaska. This is a common scenario for any young coxswain stationed at a Search and Rescue Station in the United States Coast Guard. The level of maturity, professionalism and responsibility we expect from our young personnel is profound. Every day heroes emerge from these scenarios, and Petty Officer Carlos Hessler has proven himself to be among the best of them time and time again.
As a Coast Guard Motor Life Boat Coxswain, Carlos has responded to over 90 Search and Rescue cases in the turbulent Alaskan waters, assisting the lives of hundreds and saving millions of dollars in property. His story, however, runs deeper than his many Coast Guard accomplishments. More interesting is the tale of how he came to be in this country, and the remarkable events that have shaped him into an outstanding leader and mentor.
Petty Officer Hessler was born in the Dominican Republic, and grew up underprivileged in a poverty-stricken portion of Santo Domingo. "We didn't have running water, I can remember showering in the rain when I was younger," he says. Reflecting on his childhood, he adds, "Not knowing my father, I grew up with my mother and aunt, who also raised four other cousins under the same roof." Returning to the Dominican Republic every few years, Petty Officer Hessler says he is reminded of the luxuries we routinely take for granted here in the United States.
Starting a family, his mother remarried to an engineer from Germany and, in 1980, they moved to Saudi Arabia where they lived before moving to the United States. After moving to the United States, Carlos grew up in Connecticut where he was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen and attended elementary school. In 1993, Carlos graduated from Coventry High School. "Home of Nathan Hale," Carlos states with a smile. "The only thing I regret is that I have but one life to give for my country," he boasts as he repeats Capt Hale's famous words with pride. After high school, Petty Officer Hessler attended Coastal Carolina College for three years before enlisting into the United States Coast Guard.
Petty Officer Hessler's superior professionalism and specialty knowledge has made him successful in many different Coast Guard arenas. Through his career he has certified as Coxswain on three different types of Coast Guard vessels, certified as a Coast Guard small arms instructor and is currently the leading Federal Law Enforcement Boarding Officer for Station Ketchikan.
Due to his background, Carlos brings the uncanny ability to look at all situations differently than most -- using the many life-lenses he has developed to focus on things others might have overlooked. He mentors young personnel and inspires superiors through his outlook on life, pride in his unit and undying love for his country.
It is not easy to imagine the hardships faced by so many and truly unrealistic to comprehend their struggles unless experienced. However, Petty Officer Hessler has taken his experiences and chosen to succeed in every aspect of his life. He is a great example for anyone regardless age, gender or ethnic background and his dedication and drive is awe-inspiring -- emulating the message that anything is possible.