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This week the Coast Guard Academy lost an institutional icon with the passing of Roger Guyas. Roger was an athletic trainer at the Coast Guard Academy for 40 years and even in retirement could be seen on the sidelines at football games. His service extended well beyond taping ankles and managing the training room. He was a friend, mentor, counselor, advisor, and stand-in parent to thousands of cadets.
When I first walked through the gates of the Coast Guard Academy in June 1967, I was unsure what lie ahead. I had decided to accept the appointment to the Academy over several other opportunities including the Naval Academy. The deciding factor? I thought I could possibly play Division III football after a bad experience my senior year in high school.
After the rigors of "swab summer" I showed up for practice as a walk on. Over the next four years I grew academically and athletically. I achieved my goal and played four years of varsity football.
Through those years Roger was someone I trusted and relied upon for advice. He and my father had served together in the Coast Guard. My class of 1971 paid tribute to Roger by dedicating our yearbook to him.
Over forty years later the words ring true.
"While the Class of 1971 was rebounding from their initiation into the Coast Guard during the summer of 1967, Roger Guyas was trading in his Chief's uniform for some civies. As the fall sports season began we settled into the schedule that we would follow for four years. Many left and many more considered it. Numb from a three hour graphics or physics lab, we would stumble down to newly built Roland Hall. Fumbling for our socks and our jocks, we would wonder if there was any reason for staying.
"Mumbling, we would walk over to the training room. Now the training room is not a quiet place. There is the noise of the whirlpool, the chatter of a dozen or so cadets, and the middle of it all Roger tapes, mends, cajoles, and lifts the battered spirits. Yes, Roger did quite a bit. He consoled the "Dear Johns," rebuilt torn egos, talked like your best friend back home, but most of all, he joked and laughed when laughter was most needed.
"There are times when everyone needs of friend, Roger Guyas was and is a good friend to the class of 1971. Years from now we will remember the second half of the Colby game, the Bates victory in indoor track, and a big win up at Amherst. Although they may become blurred, as memories do, they will come into focus when we see the wide grin and laugh of one Roger Guyas."
To the extent that we are a reflection of the people we have known and have cared about in our lives, Roger Guyas is part of any success I have may have achieved. When the Bears line up for the kickoff at their first home game this fall, Roger will not be standing there for the first time in over 50 years.
The field will seem a little empty without him.
Admiral Thad Allen retired in 2010 as the Commandant of the Coast Guard. He was a co-captain of the 1971 Academy football team.