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Reflecting on the US Coast Guard's 231-Year History, Ties to Haʻikū Stairs

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To celebrate the 231st birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Conversation stopped to reflect on the history of the branch whose mission includes maritime safety, national security and environmental stewardship — its motto is “Always Ready.”

Gary Thomas is the executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History. He says the Coast Guard’s presence in the islands is said to date back to the 1800s.

Thomas, a retired commander in the Coast Guard and chief of electronic navigation, was fortunate to live at the Diamond Head Lighthouse as the spouse of the retired Rear Admiral Cari Batson Thomas.

She was the commander of District 14 which covers the Pacific and is the largest area of responsibility for the Coast Guard.

Hawaiʻi Public Radio reached out to Gary Thomas in the Washington D.C. area, where the couple lives now, to reflect on Coast Guard history and the ties to a controversial stairway along the Koʻolau mountain range — the Haʻikū Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven.

The future of the stairs is in the hands of the City and County of Honolulu.

"I'm not going to be the one to make the decision for the city, obviously," Gary Thomas said. "But I would hope that in some way they could find a happy medium that keeps everybody happy because it is, by all the pictures I've ever seen and having flown over that area, just a stunning view that is not available in many places in the islands."

Click the "Listen" button to hear Gary Thomas' interview from The Conversation on Aug. 4, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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