South Padre Island, Texas - Returning to United States Coast Guard Station South Padre Island and Marine Security Technician Detachment Brownsville, has been an effort for us. The last trip to USCG Sector Corpus Christi, a few months ago, included a scheduled visit south that had to be postponed due to the mission requirements of the station’s aircraft - this time we flew straight to Brownsville.
Two months ago, instead of heading south our mentors adjusted schedules and went underway on a Sector Corpus Christi Construction Tender and filled up their final day in Corpus watching first hand the on going battle with post hurricane Harvey cleanup efforts.
This week our Coasties were reunited with mentors on the southern border thanks to a dedicated trip bypassing the northern area of operations. This past summer Harvey narrowly missed wrecking havoc on this border region, but what the southern border teams missed in the way of storm damage has always been more then made up for in their perseverance to stem the flow of drug smuggling and illegal commercial fish kidnapping.
“We made a commitment to the Sector to visit as many times as possibly 3 years ago, but when you look at the land mass and number of stations it’s been hard to get out to every station… every visit,” says Rob Powers, the host of American300’s ‘Never Quit Series’, adding, “so getting back on deck with SPI and MSD Brownsville was a priority, these teams just never seem to catch a break in operational tempo.”
With a guitar strung around his neck and solid red George Strait Wrangler Shirt pressed like his jeans , mentor Austin Wahlert, stepped before a packed galley to share his families story for the first time in front of Service Members this week. As a member of the Wrangler National Patriot program, the former professional bull rider turned musician was right where he wanted to be.
“I gotta tell you guys, I’ve wanted to be a part of the Wrangler National Patriot Tours
Seeing that no one was going to throw food at him, but instead having read tidbits of his story witnessing the Service Members shout out welcomes, Austin dove into telling the story of his 29 year existence on planet earth. From loosing friends and family members during High School to nearly loosing his wife and daughter as a young husband, Austin shared it all. “Being told by doctors that I could never ride a bull again hit me hard, but nothing like being told that my daughter had Downs Syndrome or that my wife had suffered a stroke,” shared Austin, who went on to share how he reinvented himself as a songwriter ‘who plays the guitar’ and television personality and show producer.
For nearly an hour Austin shared and kept sharing stories that made the room reflect on the absurdity and madness that life can be at times. Throughout it all with a message of work and never quit… no matter how tough things appear.
Thanks to leaderships acceptance of our programming Austin’s story wasn’t limited to a microphone drop and stage walk off to photos, autographs and handshakes. Instead like all American300 mentor visits, Austin spent the next 3 days doing everything from performing writing songs with Coasties to going underway on numerous missions at sea.
“I witnessed these guys process illegal fishermen in the middle of the night and got to pilot one of their 3 million dollar boats, a boat that I had performed boat checks on with the team 12 hours earlier in the day.” said Wahlert, adding, “I’ll be headed overseas to undisclosed bases on the Armed Forces Entertainment/American300 Wrangler National Patriot Memorial Day Tour next month, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but there’s nothing that will ever erase the memories and friendships that I’ve made with these Coasties . I just pray that sharing my life story shines a light on what is truly possible in life… no matter how hard things hit you upside the head… provided you just don’t quit.”
To learn more about mentor Austin Wahlert visit: https://www.facebook.com/austinwahlertband
For more on American300 go to: www.american300.org