A Red Letter Day for Camden County

The Camden Partnership’s recent “Community that Cares” event was a rousing success! We had invited ADM Papp almost a year ago and immediately had our first community planning meeting. This community really knows how to pull together when it’s needed! We made plans – everyone had their responsibilities – great ideas were developed and then we waited. When the call came we all knew what to do and the rest was fun, exciting, and exhausting.

Admiral Bob Papp and his wife, Linda, arrived on March 9 with the festive flags greeting them at the entrance of the clubs, the electronic boards crackling with the Welcome ADM Papp message, the billboard awesomely displayed on Highway 40, and marquees all over town welcoming his visit. He and Mrs. Papp were greeted at a reception by Mayor Bill Deloughy (St. Marys), Mayor Kenneth Smith (Kingsland), Mayor Steve Parrott (Woodbine), and the chairman of the county commission, David Rainer. Also attending was leadership from the Navy: RADM and Mrs. Joe Tofalo, Commanding Officer Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, John O’Neill, Coast Guard Commanding Officers CDR Steve Love (MFPU) and LCDR Matt Baer, as well as LTCOL Wendy Goyette, Commanding Officer of the Marine Corp Security Force Battalion.

Other commanding officers, executive officers, chiefs, and master chiefs participated. There were greetings from community members as they recognized service men and women as members their churches and organizations.

It was a sea of white, blue and khaki. Our military mixed with community leaders from across the county. There was such a festive air in the room. And the room itself was festive – thanks to Fleet and Family Support, MWR , our board member Marty Klumpp, and help from our Coast Guard personnel.

Our co-sponsors, the Camden Kings Bay Navy League Council, headed by Hunt Thornhill, helped fill the room. Keith Post, Navy League Georgia State President, presented the “ADMIRAL BOB PAPP DAY” proclamation along with the mayors and chairman officially recognizing ADM Papp’s visit and his ‘official day’. And, of course, he couldn’t leave without an EDICCIMAD poster to remember this day and our community.

A significant contribution to the event was the scrapbook prepared by Julie Swick and Katie Bishop. They did a bang up job of capturing the events leading up to the “Community that Cares” and the day itself. I’m told that ADM Papp has this scrapbook displayed in his office for all to see!

One of the most enjoyable and effective events was Cheryl Aston’s idea to have a “Flat Stanley” event, named after a children’s book with that name. Cheryl produced cardboard cut-outs of ADM Papp, Keith organized a road rally and over 100 men and women in Camden helped us escort “ADM Papp” (as a poster likeness) to various landmarks and official locations in the Cities and County, including our law enforcement and first responder departments, for photos.

Our community let the Commandant know that we appreciate our Coast Guard in Camden County. They are wonderful assets to our communities.

In my introduction at the Community That Cares luncheon, I told those in attendance that “The Coast Guard needed another great leader. And Bob Papp is that great leader – he is both a warrior and a thinker – and that is what’s needed for the multitude of missions of the Coast Guard and the challenges they face in these next few years.”

Quoted in a news story by Kelly Wirfel in the Periscope, Papp said, “To make it very simple, our mission is to make sure bad things don’t happen from the sea, bad things don’t happen to people on the sea and bad things don’t happen to the sea”. He continued by addressing the budget cuts and the “uncertain and stormy seas” that face the Coast Guard, but quickly followed up by saying he is confident that the service will be able to face these challenges head on. “I am confident we are ready to face those uncertain and stormy seas, because we have great patriots that are stepping up to serve this great country, “Papp said. “Regardless of how bad the weather is, it is going to get better. Our Coast Guard men and women give me great confidence.”

“I am completely overwhelmed with the response I have received from the Camden County Community,” ADM Papp told the community. “In fact, with the power vested in me as the Commandant of the Coast Guard, I declare Camden County a Coast Guard County.” (Note: we are working now to obtain letters from our mayors and community leaders for ADM Papp to reinforce this declaration with an official application to present to the congressional committee that approves this designation!)

It was certainly a red letter day when we welcomed the 24th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, ADM Bob Papp, to Camden County.