Celebrating 100 years of auxiliary service

Jules Ben David and Kenneth DeBettencourt retire from Coast Guard Auxiliary after each serving 50 years.



The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, put in place by Congress in 1939, has been a beacon of safety for those on the water for 85 years. Martha’s Vineyard flotilla vessel examiners Jules Ben David and Kenneth DeBettencourt have been active members for more than half of that. Both have been with the service for 50 years, a feat worthy of celebration.

On Saturday Jan. 20, members of the Coast Guard Station Menemsha honored the long-time members for their service as they retire. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed, non-military, volunteer component of the Guard.

“What you’re looking at is 100 years of voluntary service at the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” said Joe Berini, flotilla commander and master-of ceremonies for the event.

The retirement was recognized by members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the national auxiliary, and the local auxiliary.

Ben David was elected Vice Flotilla Commander in 1981. He is regarded as one of the flotilla’s top vessel examiners, and has been awarded a number of honors including the Special Operations Ribbon and the Flotilla Meritorious Achievement award.

DeBettencourt was elected Flotilla Commander and Flotilla Staff Officer for Operations in 1995. He too is regarded as one of the flotilla’s top vessel examiners, and has also earned a number of honors including the Special Operations Service award and the Coast Guard Bicentennial Unit Commendation.

Both members joined in 1973, and have worked towards ensuring the safety and functionality of vessels and educating others on boating safety.

Berini also noted that having one member retire from an auxiliary after 50 years is unheard of — let alone two members.

Lunch followed shortly after the introduction, prepared by Auxiliary Food Service Specialist Mike Salvatore. With this meal, along with any other meal he cooks, he says, “A lot of these [auxiliary members] miss home. So I make them home-cooked meals.”

After plates were cleared, attention was drawn back to the podium where Senior Chief Nicholas Grim delivered a brief speech before recognizing Ben David and DeBettencourt with 3 honors — the Commonwealth’s Letter of Commendation with an auxiliary ribbon bar, an honorary plaque presented by Cape and Islands District Captain Dennis Bunnell, and a glass retirement award gifted by the local auxiliary flotilla members.

“You guys are our unsung heroes […] you do so much for us and we really appreciate you being a part of the Coast Guard family — we wouldn’t be able to do what you do without your assistance,” Grim said, addressing the honorees.

The honorees reflected on the event. “I didn’t expect this outpouring that we have here,” Ben David said. “I really appreciate the service that the Coast Guards are doing.”

He also spoke to the need for more membership.

Ben David also noted the need for members following the 2 retirements. “Losing two of us inspectors,” he said, “we need membership very much.”

DeBettencourt told The Times that it was an honor to be celebrated on Saturday. “How people recognized us is really great,”

When asked about his plans following his retirement, Ben David happily replied, “I’ve served my country — I’ll enjoy [time with] my family and children.”