Charles Sullins – Hometown Hero

In All Articles, HomeTown Hero Spotlight, SPOTLIGHT by Urban Well

As a young boy growing up in Waxahachie, I had the privilege of being around a lot of wonderful law enforcement officers. My dad, who is my hero and role model, was a Waxahachie police officer, then became the Chief of Police. Later, he became the Chief Deputy for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office.   

I was able to sit behind the dispatcher’s desk and listen to the different calls that would come in. One of the things I remember the most is trying to learn the phonetic alphabet that the police used. I did not know then that later this would be an issue when I joined the Coast Guard and would have to learn the military phonetic alphabet, which is quite a bit different. My company commanders had a great time with me and the end result would be a lot of pushups.

Another blessing of growing up in Waxahachie was that my parents worked as House Parents for the Presbyterian Home for most of my childhood. As a kid growing up in the Home with other children, it gave me the gift of understanding and the ability to listen. I continue to have close ties with those I consider my brothers and sisters.

I graduated from Waxahachie in 1984 and went to college at Navarro and Hill College while also working. In 1989 I joined the Coast Guard. I started boot camp in Cape May, NJ and decided that if given the chance I would try to do and see things no one else really ever gets an opportunity to do. 

My first duty stationed was on the Mississippi River in Natchez, Mississippi on the Coast Guard Cutter Lantana/Greenbrier. I was pleased with the decision to go there because of my love of Mark Twains “Huckleberry Finn”.  I got the opportunity to see a lot of different rivers because we serviced buoys and day boards for the many tug boats.

I was then transferred to Petaluma, California for school to become a Storekeeper. After I finished school, I was transferred to Kodiak, Alaska, which is the 2nd largest island in the United States (next to Hawaii). 

My next units were in Texas (Marine Safety Office in Houston and Group/Airstation in Corpus Christi).  After Corpus Christi I was transferred to McKinleyville, California where the Redwood trees are located.  

While stationed in Northern California, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I volunteered to go and assist. Our staging area was located in Alexandria, LA. My responsibility there was cost/documentation on everything from fuel for the boats, trucks, helicopters, planes to man hours.

My next unit was back to Kodiak, Alaska for another tour at COMMSTA Kodiak, AK. When leaving Kodiak, the only way on and off the island is by boat or plane. We chose to drive, so we were on a ferry for several days before getting off in Canada and driving the rest of the way to the east coast. This is another experience most families do not experience, driving across the country.

In Alaska, I was able to take so many pictures of otters, bears, eagles, moose and whales. My best picture was of an eagle flying in next to whale bones with a bear sow and cub all in one pictures.

During my 2nd tour there, I was named Enlisted Coast Guard Person of the Year in 2008, and nominated for the Enlisted CG Person of the Year for PACAREA, which covers the entire west coast.

I made Chief Petty Officer while at the COMMSTA and received my orders to the east coast in Elizabeth City, NC as a barracks manager for students checking in and out. Funny thing, when I was young I was always told to pick up my clothes, later I would be doing the same thing to students when inspecting their rooms. 

While in E-City a message came across that Airstation, Kodiak needed a Chief Storekeeper. So I thought what a great place to end my career especially since my kids grew up there and I had already spent two tours there. I got the job and started our road trip back to the small island of Kodiak. During this time, Coast Guard Alaska (a reality show about the Coast Guard) appeared on the Weather Channel and was documenting different search and rescue missions. My Units AOR (area of responsibility) was the largest in the State of Alaska. We had the largest budget in Alaska. Some of the best times for me in the Coast Guard were being able to make a difference in my fellow Coast Guard brothers and sisters lives beginning with learning spouse’s names and their children’s birthdays. My goal was to help them reach their goals.  

In Houston, I was on watch and a lady called to tell me she was going to commit suicide. The fact that I stayed calm surprised me because I was only a Third Class Storekeeper. As I was on the phone, I just tried to keep her calm and listen to her issues, just to be an open ear (a trait I attribute to my days in the Presbyterian Home). While talking to her, I got the attention of my supervisor on watch and wrote on a piece of paper that I had a suicide caller and he called the Houston Police Dept. I was able to locate where she was and continued our conversation. A few minutes later the lady said “hold on, it’s the police”. That ended our call and the next day I got a call from the responding police officer and he complimented me on how I handled it. He asked if I had training on this before and I explained my dad is a police officer and I asked myself what he would do in this situation.

Being able to serve my country has been an honor. Joining the Coast Guard was the best decision I ever made besides marrying my wife of 20 years, Suzi; then came the blessings of the births of my sons, Cameron and Chase. Earlier I said my father was my hero, but I failed to mention that my wife and boys are also my heroes. While I was able to spend all my childhood in Waxahachie, my wife and kids had to pick up and go, after making friends or getting a new job in every place we lived. They have always been my biggest supporters.  I owe a gratitude to them for making all those moves with me.  

After retiring from the Coast Guard, we decided to come home and try and make a difference and help our Ellis County family in some kind of capacity, either through work or volunteering.

Some of the other things I enjoy doing is studying the Bible, attending sports functions, music, fishing, photography and spending time with my family. 

I am so blessed to be back home and beginning the next chapter in my life, one in which I will continue to watch my family put down roots and hopefully in the future, watch our family grow.

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