MEET OUR VETERANS:
Jeremy Ragle U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard is one of our nation’s five military services. Our core values—honor, respect, and devotion to duty, are the guiding principles used to defend and preserve the United States of America. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
Jeremy Ragle was born November 12th, 1980 in Ft. Worth, Texas. His stepbrother, Don, served in the Navy and his dad, Marshall Ragle, was a paratrooper and corpsman on the tail end of Vietnam.
“I grew up on a guest ranch, a place called Heavenly Acres,” said Jeremy from his home in Canton. “I moved out there when I was about five years old and stayed for about 15 years. It was a mixture of a Guest Ranch and paint and body shop. There was always something to do on the ranch.
We had about 98 acres with two fishing lakes, paddle boats, four wheelers, and guest cabins. One day my mom, Vickie, decided to start a bed and breakfast and we continued to build more cabins,” he said. His mom, Vickie Ragle operates Therapy Dogs of Van Zandt County, which in turn helps veterans in need.
“I loved the people at Heavenly Acres and our Bed and Breakfast. I learned early how to put on a good face and greet people. I was this redneck country kid and we had a lot of “city slickers” come out. They wanted to get a full taste of the country. We gave it to them. We shot shotguns, took em fishing, rode four wheelers and just did what they wanted to do out in the country,” he laughed.
“We also had Ragle’s Paint and Body Shop as a family business. I was good with the body work but better with the electrical. My first vehicle was a 1977 Chevy Blazer. I was about 15 years old and my dad said go behind the shop and pick any vehicle you want. That sounds great but they were all broken down and in pretty bad shape. I went straight to a 1965 Chevy Truck. I got the frame restored but the cab was rusted out. My backup plan was the Blazer. It turned into a crazy hotrod. I had a lot of money wrapped up in it and eventually sold it and regretted it as soon as I did.
When I joined the Coast Guard I started looking for that Blazer and never could find it. Gone to the ages,” Jeremy said shaking his head.
JOINING THE COAST GUARD
“I was always in the gifted and talented classes. One year I went to a Marine Biology camp and we went to look at boats. That kind of stuck with me. What really got me into the Coast Guard was my AZVAT Test. I scored a 99% on it. Everybody wanted me. The Marines took me out for a steak dinner, the Navy was there to woo me, the Army said whatever you want, we will give you. Sign on bonuses were offered. But, the Coast Guard didn’t even call me,” he said.
“Not a single phone call. I was like, who are these people? The Air Force was calling me to pick my station. Nothing from the Coast Guard. I eventually drove over to Dallas and met with one of their recruiters.
One of my big influencers going into the military was my cousin Jeff. He was a marine who served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He was like a brother to me. The marines were top of my list. Finally, The Coast Guard called me back. I had a servant’s heart and wanted to help people and the Coast Guard offered me just that. It was more search and rescue and law enforcement and I felt the Coast Guard was the better fit for me. I graduated in 1999 from Mabank High School and signed on with the Coast Guard for four years.
On August 18th of 2000 I graduated from the Coast Guard boot camp in Cape Maine, New Jersey. I was in good shape after playing soccer in High School so the physical part of boot came easy for me. Basic training was eight weeks. There is a lot of classroom training involved and a lot of hands on training. You have to be able to perform under pressure in the Coast Guard. My MOS was legacy Boatswain Mate. In the Coast Guard you go straight to your unit. My first assignment was the Coast Guard Unit in South Padre Island and I got a lot of military experience there,” said Jeremy.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS
“The first thing you do is qualify in the watch room. This is one of the hardest things to learn for a kid fresh out of high school. It is similar to a dispatcher where you are answering phones and three radios at the same time. You may get a call that yells… mayday, mayday. You ask, where are you? Answer, I don’t know. It is your job to figure out where this call is coming from. You have to know “Your area of Responsibility.” They could describe a tower in the distance or a flashing light close by. How many flashes per second, you ask? You could ask, do you have a compass on board? From your position, what direction is that tower? We then can have an idea roughly where they are located. You have an officer of the day that runs the station. They are there to back you up, and to make all the command decisions. There is a lot of logistics and coordination going on,” Jeremy told me.
He eventually broke into being a Federal Boarding Officer (FBO), and it allowed him to move up in his law enforcement career.
“As an FBO we could do everything from boarding a mom and pop boat to making sure you are safe in your boat. We checked for life jackets, registration papers and sometimes had a full-blown boarding of a large-scale vessel. We worked with the FBI, CDI, Navy Seals and other law enforcement agencies. Working with Federal Agencies can be super dangerous. We were heavy into the anti-cartel work.
In South Padre we had both small and large vessels. There is a 41-footer like what is on display at the Veterans Memorial. The Coast Guard does not name vessels under 65 feet,” he said.
INFO: Coast Guard vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as boats and usually operate near shore, on inland waterways, or attached to cutters. The service has about 1,680 altogether, although the number fluctuates. These craft include heavy weather response boats, special purpose craft, ATON boats, and cutter-based boats. Sizes range from 64 feet in length down to 12 feet. The new emphasis on homeland security has produced a corresponding emphasis on smaller, fast boats such as the Response Boat-Small and Response Boat-Medium. An added capability for the ATON forces is the procurement of new work boats that replaced those that have exceeded their economic service life and are no longer cost effective to maintain. The new boats brought into service are ATON Boat-Small (AB-S), a 20-foot aluminum hull with a range of 70 nautical miles, and ATON Boat-Skiff (AB-SKF), a 16-foot aluminum hull with a range of 50 nautical miles. Both boats are outfitted with standard electrical systems and ample working deck space. (Source: uscg.mil)
“At the time I was stationed at South Padre we had the 41s the 27s and one shallow water response boat called a Majek, (pronounced Mi-yak).
You had to qualify on each sized boat. They were all used for both search and rescue along with law enforcement. You need to know every part of that boat. How long is it and its width? What equipment is stored? We trained during the week on certain hours including towing training, man overboard, lifesaving, first aid and any training used in a live situation. You are never fully qualified, you always needed to learn more,” said Jeremy.
“I enjoyed both search and rescue along with the law enforcement sides in the Coast Guard. There is not a greater high than saving somebody. I brought someone back to life a few times over my fifteen years in the Guard. In South Padre we were lifeguards on the beach. I was a certified surface swimmer. During spring break people were not always sober. I was hooked onto a giant fishing reel and had to perform rescue. You were either the person who went out and reeled them in or you were the person who administered CPR. It was like that all day long until spring break was over. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I was an adrenalin junkie so it was a blast, I loved it,” said Jeremy smiling.
“The other part of South Padre I liked was the law enforcement side. There was a lot of activity going on. There were small boats called launches. They were fast with the biggest and baddest motors on the market. Drug money paid for it. We would basically pack on em with two boat tactics. One boat would chase em down and get them on a course and the other boat would get in a pinch move. Rules of Engagement said we could only use pepper spray or shoot pepper balls from a modified paintball gun. It was a Mexican boat so you had to have a Statement of No Objection (SNO) for both countries. That is where it got shady. We had our sidearms and shotguns and most of them knew they were outgunned if they went up against the Coast Guard. We got a couple of huge busts with the Cartel and there was retaliation. One was against a Border Patrol Agent. It was bad. Family found him in the front yard. We had to take different routes each day to go home. We were all on a hitlist. It was interesting times. South Padre has always been, always will be more law enforcement. It is a major thoroughfare for drugs and a migrant lane,” explained Jeremy.
QUEEN ISABELLA CAUSEWAY ACCIDENT
There was a major catastrophe three days after 9-11, a barge hit the Queen Isabella Causeway.
INFO: In the early morning hours of September 15, 2001, four loaded barges crashed into one of the Queen Isabella Causeway’s support columns traveling at 2/10ths of 1 mile per hour. Three 80-foot sections of the bridge fell into the water, leaving a large gap in the roadway. The collapsed sections were just next to the highest point of the causeway, making it difficult for approaching drivers to notice. Eight people were killed as their cars fell 85 feet into the water. Five vehicles were recovered from the water along with three survivors. (SOURCE: Wikipedia.org)
“At first it knocked a hundred-foot section out of the bridge. When the barge hit, it knocked out the power on the top of the bridge. A car travelling 70 miles would have never seen it and plunged into the water below. Our first thought was terrorist related, since it was three days after 9-11. It was ruled operator error on the Barge. We had to work that scene for quite a while.
I spent two years at the Coast Guard Station in South Padre. From there I was sent to a cool off billet after working with the cartels for so long in South Padre. I was sent up to Two Rivers Coast Guard Station in Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee.”
TWO RIVERS COAST GUARD STATION
Jeremy spent four years doing search and rescue on the Great Lakes. “That was beautiful up there, I loved it. I had more down time there so I went to every possible school I could find. They included Command Intelligence all the way to various Weapons Schools. I signed our unit up to various traveling schools coming to our area. I became the Weapons Officer and the MLE at my unit. The Maritime Law Enforcement Academy road show came thru and we did tactics on some of the boats and marinas. We scared the locals to death, it was great,” and we both laughed.
“There were two nuclear power plants with their tactical response and security teams. We did our fair share of search and rescue. I was leaning towards being a teacher or instructor. With the down time, I had a lot of opportunities to attend several schools. I picked up on law enforcement quickly and wanted to teach some of the courses myself. This was the first unit where I actually became a small boat operator. I went to Coxswain School and several Search and Rescue Fundamental Schools. I turned the unit into a place where kids right out of boot camp could come and learn. It was a powerhouse place for teaching. Two of my students went to Officers Candidate School, (OCS). That was a big deal,” stated Jeremy.
COAST GUARD CUTTER, CYPRESS
“The Cypress is a 225-foot sea going Buoy Tender. Our job was to keep the channels open for all maritime traffic. We were located in Mobile, Alabama. My cool-off billet was up and I am back in the south again. The Cypress was designated by the Coast Guard as a multi-mission platform. It has a giant crane on the front of it and a massive buoy deck. It is designed to pull the giant buoy’s out of the channels along with the 12,000 lb. sinkers that hold them in place. It is also setup to do law enforcement missions. I was now able to perform my ace navigation and work law enforcement.”
“When you get a big cocaine or marijuana bust you get this sticker on the side of the boat like a football player would get a performance sticker on the side of their helmets. There had never been a go-fast sticker on a buoy tender. Our boat looks a lot like a small freighter.
We once caught a go-fast out of Cuba. We were the first 225 to fulfill that multi-mission platform from that class of boats. The Cuban vessel came by us and we dropped our two small boats in the water.
Keep in mind before I got on this Tender there was only a small blue light to verify law enforcement. I purchased $5,000 of LED lights and mounted them on the front of our 225. It was beautiful. The entire mast was rigged with LED’s. It was powered by the boat and professionally mounted by a local company. In the Coast Guard I was the master of finding grant money.
The Cuban’s never knew what hit em. We turned on the LED’s on the two smaller boats and then I hit em with this massive lighting rig. They just gave up. I was a coxswain in one of the smaller boats and I looked back at the Cypress, I was amazed and awed,” laughed Jeremy.
Sabine Pass is the 2nd largest land unit Coast Guard station in the country. There are several refineries in the area and a lot of oil tanker traffic. The 41-foot Coast Guard boat now resting at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial came from Sabine Pass.
“We also had 25s, which were the tactical response boats. These are M240-Bravo 30 caliber machine guns mounted on front. The 25s were our escort boats. They had twin 250 Yamaha motors. The larger 41’s were more resilient and used offshore. We could mount the 30 cals on the sides. I had to keep proficient so I shot the 30 cals a lot. If we practiced in the Gulf we had to use shells that would float and were bio degradable.”
Jeremy was stationed in Sabine Pass for five years. In 2008 he was involved in a motorcycle accident that basically tore his arm off.
“They had to attach it with three cadaver ligaments then build a cradle for it with two more. I was heading to work on my motorcycle and a lady pulled out in front of me. It tore my arm up really bad. I came back to work too soon. I was off the coast of Cuba and it got rough. I steer with my left arm and throttle with my right arm. I was being hoisted up from a small boat and I felt it. It was like a terrible knife pain. I knew I tore something. Doc told me my worst fears. I had torn it again. We basically taped my shoulder back together and I worked another two weeks. I got back and had surgery. I am five surgeries in now. I also suffered from neck problems. I was about 15 years into my military service time in the Coast Guard. I was told I had to stop or I would be paralyzed. I reluctantly took the medical discharge. It was a huge downer for me,” said a disappointed Jeremy. “I hope one day they come up with better medical options for my shoulder. Right now, I am out of options.”
LEFT MY LEGACY WITH THE COAST GUARD
“We were on a rescue mission when our boat got sideswiped twice by Tropical Storm Faye. There was a Navy Sub that had to get back into the Canaveral Channel. Our GPS was completely down. We had a jump box that was designed to go on the smaller boats. I wired that entire system to the ships system, rigged up the antenna on a broom handle, reset all the ships offsets to the broom handle and we reset the Canaveral Channel to get that sub back in. They also had a critically injured crew member on board. I got a medal for that one and am very proud of it,” said Jeremy.
“On another occasion the Coast Guard came up with a term called Ragle Rigging. Everywhere I went I heard that term. I rewrote the book on emergency turns. We were in Mayport, Florida. There is a training drill for the 225 on making turns. I saw the setup they had and said this is ridiculous. It took forever to turn the boat manually. The whole drill took like an hour. I grabbed a half inch impact wrench. Now give me real helm commands, I instructed to the ship’s Captain. Captain, come on, trust me, I said.
Come right 5 degrees. I impact wrenched it 5 degrees. Come right 15 degrees. Impact wrenched it 15 degrees. Stopped it right on the money. Radio silence, nothing. I heard the Captain coming down the hallway. What did you just do? I showed him my wrench. NOOO. I showed him my technique again. He said, I cannot believe that works. He told me to write out an emergency turn procedure card. We are doing this when we get to Mayport. We are going to do it in front of the instructors, and then we are going to present the card to them,” said the Captain.
It is in the Coast Guard manuals today. It is now referred to as the 225 Emergency Turn Procedure. All thanks to Jeremy Ragle.
COAST GUARD BOAT AT VZC VETERANS MEMORIAL
“Coast Guard Boat #41389 was sitting at the end of the pier after we decommissioned her,” said Jeremy as he explained how the Coast Guard Boat ended up at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial.
“It was just breaking my heart. I was from Canton and I knew about the new Memorial coming in. I had never seen a Coast Guard boat at a Veteran’s Memorial before. That has got to change. That boat is going into our Memorial,” said an adamant Jeremy.
“I went to the Master Chief. He told me, no, that’s impossible. I asked him to clarify that for me. Is it impossible or are you telling me no, I can’t do it? Again, he said that is impossible. Thank you Master Chief, I am going to go with, it is ok to do it. My next call was to the Property Manager. He said, I like your idea, but that is way above my head. How far above your head exactly and do you have that phone number? He looked at me and said, you are serious. I called you, didn’t I. Ok smartass. He said he is a Three-Star Admiral. He gave me his number. I called the Admiral, again, and again and again. I started sending him emails. I finally got thru and he said, you are the one that keep’s calling me. Yes sir. Keep in mind I am still stationed in Sabine Pass and in the Coast Guard. My career was on the line here. So, this is what you want to do, and I said yes sir. He said, I think I can help you with the next step. I think you need to get ahold of your state representative. I will make you the person of contact. Have them assume that boat as an asset, if I were you. Once it is assumed as an asset then they can donate it to your Veteran’s Memorial. That is if you were me, Sir? Yes,” he said.
The boat was in General Services Administration (GSA), and for sale. Both the engines were recently rebuilt and in great condition. There were some inquiries, since he was the person of contact, and Jeremy knew he needed to get the boat and fast. It was eventually taken under as a state asset. It had to sit in Sabine Pass another eighteen months. Red Montgomery and other members at the Memorial were all ready for the boat.
“I was still in Sabine Pass and started hitting up Craigslist for buyers for the two engines. The boat had two 903 cubic inch Cummings Turbo Diesel engines with reduction gear and both had just been rebuilt. I was there so I knew the history of this boat. The electronics had been stripped since it had Coast Guard sensitive encrypted information on it. We got a decent price from the two engines and the money helped get the Memorial started. The transportation to get it up to Canton was free of charge. That whole deal worked out great. We got the boat plus much needed cash out of it. I am just glad it all came together. I do not know of another 41-foot Coast Guard boat like this one at any Memorial in the state. I love driving down Highway 19 and seeing that Coast Guard Boat at the Memorial. I can say, that was my boat,” said a smiling Jeremy.
LIFE AFTER THE COAST GUARD
“I loved the comradery in the Coast Guard. Friends are like family, and I have family all over the United States. I am talking about true friends I met in the Coast Guard.
“I enjoyed a lot of fun times on the open waters. We had everything from Stingrays flying up on the deck to fishing off buoys. We caught giant Tuna and Sharks off the backs of the boats. Our lookouts and BIGEYES would be on watch for big schools of fish. We would just change course and head to the fish,” laughed Jeremy.
“There is not a value you don’t learn serving in the military. Honor, respect and devotion to duty, that is what we lived by. Your word is everything,” said Jeremy.
After years of never knowing what happened to his 1977 Blazer, Jeremy finally got the opportunity to buy it back. “I enjoy working on the 77 Blazer,” said a smiling Jeremy. “I still have plenty of work to do on it. She is my baby. I will never sell her again. On my bucket list is to one day drive that Blazer along Route 66,” said Jeremy glazing off into the future.
Thank you, Jeremy, for your service to our country.
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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