My Time in Uniform

The author (left) on duty at Carlin Park, Jupiter, Florida, ca. 1973

Ocean Lifeguards (not to be confused with lake or swimming pool "lifeguards") are the nation's frontline of defense. A cross between the Coast Guard and Navy Seals, ocean guards see far beyond the swimmers, scanning the horizon, torpedo buoy in hand, for boatloads of refugees, pirates, German U-boats (particularly during World War 2,) giant radioactive sea turtles (more of a Japanese phenomenon) or smart-ass surfers drifting into the swimming area.
My service as an Ocean Lifeguard ended after two years when the pressure of holding a full time job and cramming for my "History of Math" class at Junior (later Community now State) College simply became too much. The future was calling and it was time to hang up my lanyard and slather on one last coat of Bain D'Soleil.

"Hero" is the most overused word in the English language, except when it comes to Ocean Lifeguards. They are not, by nature, "attention whores"  like firefighters are.You won't find them misusing taxpayer time and money muscling up in the station house gym so they can pose for yet another "calendar to raise money for charity." 

Saving lives is its own reward. We did it because it was our calling - to give something back. The grateful look in the eyes of a sobbing young mother whose toddler you plucked from the undertow as she pushes a ten dollar bill into your hand to "buy yourself a carton of cigarettes" was all the "attention" we ever needed.