WWII Veteran Passes Ship's Ensign to Next Generation

Image courtesy USCG

Published Nov 22, 2019 7:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

A U.S. Coast Guard veteran presented the cutter Tampa with the ensign from the ship's WWII-era namesake at a ceremony in Portsmouth, Virginia on Thursday. 

Alex Obrizok, 96, served in the Coast Guard from 1942 to 1946. In addition to his Coast Guard service, he is a Navy and Seabees veteran with over 20 years of cumulative service in the armed forces. He participated in operations for both WWII and the Korean War.

While attending a wedding this September, Obrizok met Patricia Larkin, a 2003 Coast Guard Academy graduate and Coast Guard veteran. Obrizok and Larkin both served on a Coast Guard cutter with the same namesake, the Tampa.

For more than 70 years, Obrizok had saved and stored the Coast Guard ensign that belonged to the original cutter Tampa. He retrieved it from storage and asked Larkin if she would return the flag to the current Tampa. 

“It’s a beautiful flag,” said Obrizok. “It survived all these years and belongs with her namesake, it belongs to the Tampa.”

Larkin contacted the Coast Guard and passed along Obrizok's proposal. This week, Obrizok, his daughter and his son-in-law drove from Selma, North Carolina to Portsmouth, Virginia to give the flag to the current Tampa. The flag was flown on the ship during his visit and remained flying during quarters where Obrizok read the promotion certificate for three officers whom promoted from ensigns to lieutenant junior grades. Vice Adm. Scott Buschman, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander, presided over the ceremony and thanked Obrizok for the historical flag, his service to his country and for making the trip to meet the crewmembers aboard the current Tampa.

During WWII, Tampa was part of the historical Greenland Patrol and was an escort vessel for the Dorchester convoy. That Tampa was decommissioned late in 1946.