NEW BRITAIN - The U.S. Coast Guard did something it doesn’t usually do Wednesday afternoon when it travelled to this city to honor one of its own.
Resident and firefighter Scott Johnson is officially a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. Representatives from the Coast Guard brought the retirement ceremony to Scott Johnson, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2015.
The newly-retired Coast Guard Chief served active duty for eight years before becoming a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. He worked in the Coast Guard Academy’s Department of Engineering, helping to train some of the military’s future engineers and specialists.
The firefighter’s battle with cancer has made it hard for him and his family to travel, so Johnson’s peers at the Coast Guard fought to bring the retirement ceremony to the New Britain Fire Department Station 1 on Beaver Street.
“This is one of our chiefs, we need to make this happen,” U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Matt Walker said, explaining the reason behind bringing the retirement ceremony to New Britain.
Walker, who served as the master of ceremonies Wednesday, said this was a very rare occurrence for a branch of the military. Retirement ceremonies usually take place at the facility the retiree was stationed at, but the Coast Guard made an exception for Johnson.
“It sucks to have to hang it up so early,” Johnson said, expressing continued commitment to the Coast Guard.
In addition to his certificate of retirement, the veteran received a Commendation Medal, a personal coin and a custom military shadow box displaying his medals and accomplishments. Damage Control 1st Class Wade Hinkley presented the shadow box to his colleague, along with a plaque to accompany it.
Johnson said he and Hinkley had established a bond with one another and he wished he was at the academy more often.
“First day I met him, he asked me to throw a chair at him. He dared me to throw a chair at him - and I did,” Johnson joked with the crowd.
The Coast Guard also honored Caroline Johnson, Scott’s wife, and their three children Zachary, Benjamin and Jacob with certificates of appreciation for their strength and commitment to their husband and father in his time of need. The Johnsons’ children have been instrumental in helping their father since his diagnosis and have contributed in efforts to raise money towards his treatment.
Zachary, the Johnsons’ eldest son, didn’t ask for presents for his recent birthday. Instead, he wanted to help raise money for his father. With the help of the organization Fight Colorectal Cancer, Caroline Johnson set up a donation page where people could contribute to Zachary’s birthday wish.
After the ceremony, firefighters, members of the Coast Guard and Johnson’s friends and family lined up to congratulate the veteran.
“How can you sum this up?” Caroline Johnson told The Herald, explaining that she never expected support of this magnitude from the Coast Guard and the New Britain community. “This is a testament to how many people he’s affected. It was above and beyond what I could have ever expected,” Caroline Johnson said.
“To the fire department, thank you guys for standing by my side the last two-plus year,” Scott Johnson said. “The support just hasn’t stopped coming. One thing or another, there is always somebody wanting to help, and that makes it a lot easier.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.