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Veteran Spotlight: Coast Guard Lt. Joseph Ponti

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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FALMOUTH, Mass. — Joseph Ponti served his country in the Coast Guard from 1961 to 1965, and was discharged as a lieutenant. 
He grew up in Lawrence and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy as an ensign. His first assignment would take him aboard a weather ship, the USCG Casco. 
"We went on five-week patrols, carried meteorologists onboard and did search and rescue
missions," he recalled.
His other roles would include 1 1/2 years as a deck watch officer, six months as a student engineer as well as an engineering watch officer. He would also serve as a marine inspector, inspecting any American ship that carried people.
Lt. Ponti would offer this when asked about the holidays: "We made the best of it. They always made something special, we had very good cooks onboard so we made do. There were no cell phones or high-level technology back then so you really lost contact with your family."
One way the could communicate at sea was to send weather balloons up 30,000 feet to report conditions to passing aircraft. 
"We communicated with mostly the stewardesses and dictated postcards to our family," he remembered. 
Ponti was in Boston in 1962 when his ship received an emergency call.
"This was during the Cuban Missile Crisis," he said. "We came to board our ship and there was an armed guard standing in front. Our assignment was to go to the Atlantic as a rescue ship during the crisis. 
"We were in communication with the mainland and finally got the call to return to port to resume our normal duties." 
Other voyages weren't quite so harrowing, including leaving Boston in 1963, he said, "on oceanographic mission to collect water samples and such, ended up in Rio De Janeiro and that was really nice."
When asked about a mentor in the service he said, "most of my mentors were my classmates, guys I served with. Our motto was — '61 Never Outdone,'" he said laughingly.
His thoughts on being a veteran? 
"I really keep in close contact with my classmates," he said. "We've known each other for 60-plus years. We're ROMEOs — Retired, Old, Men, Eating Out. We've all kept very close and that's what so special about being a veteran that served his country: the camaraderie.
"We love to jab each other and talk about what body parts are going on us. We're already planning our next gathering. I love these guys like brothers."
One of his favorite hobbies is writing articles on Coast Guard ships, which he submits for publication and also presents informative lectures at assisted living centers.
Lt. Joe Ponti, thank you for your service to our great country.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at

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