Hard-drinking and authoritarian, Captain Michael Healy had no friends in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, but his accomplishments as a law-enforcement officer, sailor, and humanitarian are rightly recognized in the naming of the new Coast Guard polar icebreaker Healy (WAGB-20), scheduled to deliver late this year.
There has been some debate within the Coast Guard over the service's decision to name an icebreaker after the late-nineteenth-century Revenue Cutter Service Captain Mike Healy. A heavy drinker who went through two courts-martial and bout with severe depression during which he attempted to take his own life, Healy certainly is no poster boy for Coast Guard core values, and there is a perception that his selection for this honor rests on his African American heritage. But judging yesterday's heroes by today's standards of behavior is a dubious pursuit. Captain Healy risked his life on many occasions to carry out the heavy responsibilities of his Alaskan command, and the Coast Guard must educate its personnel and the public on his contributions.