Members of the U.S. Coast Guard were at the PHS campus on Friday to thank the school district for its role in honoring the late Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne, PHS Class of 1997, who died in December, 2012, saving his crewmates from an attacking boat suspected of smuggling narcotics.
As a gesture of gratitude for the school district’s efforts to share the story of this local hero, the Coast Guard presented a framed commemorative poster of Horne, which was created for the commissioning ceremony on March 22, and tells Horne’s story.
In return, PJUSD presented a framed United Patterson poster to the 11th District of the U.S. Coast Guard, deeming them honorary partners of PJUSD and the “No Excuses Community.”
The military branch commissioned a fast response cutter (FRC) in honor of Horne on March 22. According to the Coast Guard website, FRCs are a key component of the Coast Guard’s offshore fleet, and, with their sophisticated equipment and highly trained crews, can conduct port, waterways and coastal security-related missions, as well as search and rescue and national defense operations, among others.
The military branch is replacing the “aging Island-class 110-foot patrol boats” with FRCs, the website says, naming each in honor of a Coast Guard enlisted hero. Their heroic deeds have included rescues of sailors in formidable weather conditions, acts of valor in wartime and years of service maintaining lighthouses that guide mariners to safety. Some have lost their lives in the process.
There are currently 58 cutters planned; the USCGC Terrell Horne was the 31st FRC to be commissioned.
The 154-foot FRCs, which can travel over 28 knots, have a 2,500-mile range and can stay out five days. FRCs saved 21 lives and intercepted over 14,200 pounds of cocaine – valued at over $191.3 million – and 874 migrants in fiscal year 2018.
PJUSD Superintendent Dr. Phil Alfano said he was not yet with the district when Terrell Horne attended PHS and so didn’t know him, Horne “certainly exemplifies everything that United Patterson stands for.” The district’s goal, he said, is that every one of the district’s graduates leave with a plan. That plan can be to attend a four-year university, a community college, trade school, or join the armed services.
“We’re extremely proud to join his family, friends and the U.S. Coast Guard, in honoring Terrell,” Alfano said. He also acknowledged the members of the Coast Guard in attendance: Captain James B. Pruett, Master Chief Ryan J. Fahlenkamp, Chief Petty Officer Diana Murphy and other recruiting officers, and Lt. Commander Matthew Kroll, who coordinated the event.
Alfano also recognized Orestimba High School’s principal, Justin Pruett – who, coincidentally, is Captain Pruett’s brother. “Just shows that West Siders go a long way in life,” Alfano said.
Captain James B. Pruett, chief of staff for the 11th coast guard district, said the district patrols from Oregon border to Peru / Costa Rica, Ecuador, Columbia. “The Coast Guard cutter Terrell Horne will be doing those patrols,” Pruett said. After giving a little background, Pruett, who grew up in Crows Landing before moving to Newman, and eventually joining the Coast Guard, told the story of the night in December, 2012, when Horne sacrificed his life to save his crewmates.
“I knew we had to recognize Patterson High School, and Patterson, and the West Side, and recognize Terrell Horne for coming (from) here. He is truly an American hero.
“That night, after midnight,” Pruett continued, “he was tasked to board a vessel suspected of trafficking narcotics. These narcotics are worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, depending on how much they have on board. The people who run those drugs are dangerous, and they’ll do anything they can to protect those drugs. So when we launched our (small) boat, with Terrell Horne on board, to go do that boarding in the middle of the night, they turned on us. They used their vessel as a weapon against us... Terrell Horne grabbed the cockswain, or driver, of the small boat, and physically threw him to the side... out of the way of the collision. And he took the brunt of the collision... and got thrown into the water, and sustained injuries that he could not survive. But that spirit of going forward, and helping others, he got it here, through high school, when he was growing up... If he didn’t take those actions to save others, he might be with us. But that’s not who he was. He put himself between the boat and his crewmembers. And his crewmembers are alive today because of it. We can’t thank him enough, and we’re extremely proud of him.”
Master Chief Ryan J. Fahlenkamp added, “any kind of ceremony like this is kind of a huge thing for us.” Of Horne, he said, “I didn’t get to know him, but I know that he was a chief in the organization.” Fahlenkamp explained that the chief is responsible for the safety of all of his fellow crewmembers. “When you put an anchor on your hat, you are that person, that takes care of everybody at the unit. You take care of the junior members; you take care of the senior officers; and so (Horne)... again, stepped up, and took care of the most junior member… and save(d) that person’s life. So he did pay the ultimate sacrifice.”
Fahlenkamp added that he graduated from another small town high school: Riverbank High.
Patterson resident John Kuipers, Horne’s stepfather, went to San Pedro for the USCGC Terrell Horne commissioning. He described that ceremony as “powerful,” and added that Terrell’s grandfather, Terrell Horne I, had passed the long glass. The passing of the long glass traditionally symbolizes the passing of authority in passing the first watch.
After the ceremony in San Pedro, Kuipers, said, the group spent some time talking around a firepit. “A lot of healing went on, even six years later.”