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Reef Rammers Hailed as Heroes

by Andrea Germanos

Engage in civil disobedience to prevent runaway climate change, and you might get arrested.  Ruin 4,000 square meters of a World Heritage-listed coral reef, and you're a hero. Photo of the USS Guardian run aground in the Tubbataha reef: (Photo: U.S. Navy)

That's right.  A hero.

The crew members of the USS Guardian, the US Navy minesweeper that rammed into the pristine coral reef at the Tubbataha National Marine Park in the Philippines back in January, were hailed for "extraordinary heroism" at a decommissioning ceremony for the ship on Wednesday.

The crew reportedly ignored warnings to avoid the area when it rammed into the reef, causing damage to at least 4,000 square meters of coral reefs. The ship couldn't even be tugged away safely — it's still being extricated piece by piece, with the reef serving as an industrial operating table for the removal, which has been thwarted by ongoing bad weather.

Shedding no tears for the reef and ecosystem they attacked, Stars and Stripes describes a "somber" atmosphere at the event where "sadness hung over the funeral-like ceremony." 

That's "sadness" for the ship, not the reef, of course.

Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley told told Stars and Stripes that the reef hit was "a story of extraordinary heroism by each and every member of this crew."

“As this ship retires, we know her memories will live beyond her through the sailors who served on her,” Harley told the audience at the ceremony.

The memories of the Guardian will indeed live on. 

But I'd guess that the memories stored in the damaged reef would tell a far different story.

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