Farewell to a chief

Parent sent off for his next assignment in Maine with well wishes from Station Menemsha.


Station Menemsha said farewells to Chief Robert Parent Wednesday morning. After serving three years on the Vineyard, Parent is transferring to Rockland, Maine, to serve on the 140-foot icebreaking tug Thunder Bay. Chief Stephen White will replace Parent as executive officer of the station.

At a ceremony held before the station’s flagstaff, Senior Chief Justin Longval, officer in charge of Station Menemsha, presented Parent with a citation honoring his accomplishments while on duty in Menemsha. He also received an accompanying Coast Guard commendation medal.

Prominent in Parent’s list of achievements was shepherding the station’s response to a fishing vessel in distress when the previous commander was away on a training assignment.

“Demonstrating exceptional leadership as the acting officer in charge in December of 2017,” Longval said, “he led the station’s response to the fishing vessel Sea Star, disabled and taking on water 30 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Expertly managing risk, he prepared the crew for launching the motor lifeboat into 18-foot seas, 50-knot winds, and sub-zero temperatures.”

As The Times reported in 2018, a Station Menemsha motor life boat not only deployed to the scene of the dramatic air rescue of four fishermen from the Sea Star, but in a separate incident gave the same vessel a rescue tow into New Bedford Harbor two months before. This rescue tow is what Parent oversaw.

Commander Matt Baker, response chief for Sector Southeast New England, said on the night of the Sea Star’s first distress, he was very concerned for the safety of the motor lifeboat crew, but after conferring with Chief Parent at length over the phone, he became confident their heavy-weather training had prepared them for the conditions the Atlantic presented.

Longval said he and Parent served together some 20 years ago at Station Woods Hole, and for Longval’s part, he never imagined they would reunite at another facility. Longval said he learned “a ton” from Parent, and Parent’s positive influence extended to everyone at the station and to many who have moved on from it. He also said he’s worked with a lot of executive officers, and Parent stood out as the best.

“I don’t have to tell you this,” Longval told Parent about going to Rockland, “but you’re not going there to take notes. You can bring them a note pad. They can take notes from you.”

Parent also received a certificate of appreciation from Auxiliary Flotilla 11-9 Commander Joe Berini, and was given a coffee cup signed by Menemsha legend Everett Poole by Flotilla 11-9 member Wayne Iacono.

Parent received an emotional hug from June Manning, longtime advocate of Vineyard Coasties, who is affectionately known as the grandmother of the Station Menemsha.

One by one, every petty officer spoke fondly and positively of the departing chief.

Parent told the petty officers assembled before him his job at Station Menemsha hadn’t been to serve the Coast Guard per se, but to serve them, and that it was a privilege to do so. He thanked Commander Baker and Senior Chief Longval for having his back across the board.

Station Menemsha also said goodbye to Petty Officer Leanna McKenna, a heavy-weather coxswain, who is transferring to Station Gloucester.