MOREHEAD CITY — A longstanding relationship that dates back to the 1880s was celebrated Thursday in Carteret County.
Members of the Coast Guard and the Carteret County community came together for a ceremony recognizing the county for its support of the men and women who serve at the 10 Coast Guard units operating within the county, including Station Emerald Isle and Fort Macon.
Carteret County is the second county in the nation to be designated a Coast Guard Community. Wilmington has been a Coast Guard City since 2003 and Elizabeth City was named a Coast Guard City last year.
Rear Adm. Stephen P. Metruck, commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District, was the keynote speaker at the event and noted that coastal communities and the Coast Guard are intertwined, and the history of service in Carteret County goes back to the 1880s and the men of the lifesaving station on Core Banks who went to the aid of the Crissie Wright.
Metruck said that since those early days, Carteret County has also stood by the men and women who have protected the local waterways and the boating public.
"When the men and women have returned from standing watch, it is the community of Carteret County that is there to welcome them home," Metruck said.
Metruck said the community has always stepped up to make the Coast Guard families feel welcome, providing Cookies for the Troops over the holidays and each quarter recognizing service members, including Coast Guard members, for exemplary work.
In 2005, more than 4,000 people toured the Coast Guard's Barque Eagle, America's Tall Ship, while it was docked at the Morehead City Port to promote the tall ship festival. When it returned in 2014, more than 9,000 visitors stopped by to see it.
Metruck said the community is there to celebrate the good times and has also stood by the Coast Guard members during the bad times.
When the Coast Guard lost one of its own in December 2012, the Town of Emerald Isle and Station Emerald Isle responded. Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III died in the line of duty off the coast of California.
He had been stationed in Emerald Isle before that and after his death, a portion of Station Street leading to Station Emerald Isle was remained in his memory as Terrell Horne III Way.
"This type of touching tribute exemplifies why Carteret County deserves this recognition," Metruck said.
Judge Doug McCullough, who serves on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, also made congratulatory remarks.
McCullough is the author of the book Sea of Greed, which details the true story of the investigation and prosecution of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the largest drug ring in U.S. history.
McCullough was serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the time and said the investigation began in Carteret County in July 1982 when a Coast Guard patrol boat out of Fort Macon boarded a suspicious shrimp boat in Beaufort Inlet.
That is just one example of the many accomplishments of the Coast Guard over the years.
"Congratulations go out to all of Carteret County. There are so many good things that happen around our Coast Guard stations here in the county," he said.
Metruck said in an interview after the ceremony, that it is a symbiotic relationship.
"We're richer because of our participation in the Carteret County community and we hope the Carteret County community is richer for having us here," he said.
The efforts to secure the designation were led by the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce with the support of the county and each of the communities within the county.
Chamber of Commerce President Mike Wagoner said the history and heritage of Carteret County revolve around the water, and the Coast Guard is a part of that.
He said many local families have a Coast Guard connection. But whether they are local or here during a tour of duty, Wagoner said Carteret County wants the Coast Guard community to know Carteret County is home.
"We want to be their home away from home. The Coast Guard families are our neighbors and live and work in our community," he said.