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Friday, February 14, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Heroes And The Sea

THE young Coast Guardsmen who plunged bravely into a ferocious sea this week probably did not think of themselves as heroes. They were essentially ordinary people who undertook an extraordinary job and, when the time came, did their duty.

That three of them paid the ultimate price should remind us all of the common courage shown by thousands of public servants, from firefighters to mountain rescue teams, whose job is to pluck the rest of us from harm's way.

Seaman Clinton Miniken, of Snohomish, and shipmates David Bosley and Matthew Schlimme signed on with a Coast Guard whose mission ranges from boat safety and enforcement to oil-spill response. But their assignment was vintage Coast Guard - small boat rescue at La Push, a windblown outpost perched on the edge of an unforgiving sea.

Late Monday night, they responded to an emergency call from a couple whose sailboat was being blown toward the rocks. The guardsmen leaped into a 44-foot rescue boat and ventured into a blackened Pacific whipped to a froth by a fierce, northern storm. The rescue boat overturned on the treacherous Quillayute River bar, dumping the crewmen into a frigid sea. Three of the four men died.

Precisely what happened aboard the rescue boat is left to investigators. For now, we can only honor the courage of the young servicemen who died, of the helicopter crew that braved the same storm to rescue the boaters, of the volunteers who pulled the surviving guardsman from the rocks, and of thousands more everyday heroes who are willing and ready to make the same profound sacrifice.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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