Jacksonville Beach, Florida

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Our History

Since 1911/1912 (it’s a little hazy which year the volunteers actually began patrolling Jacksonville Beach) the men and women of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps have stood watch over Jacksonville’s beaches to protect the lives of residents and visitors who come throughout the year to enjoy our pristine shores and abundant sunshine. For the vast majority of these visitors, their seaside weekends and holidays stir pleasant memories of families and friends together, beach picnics and splashing in the waves under a warm Florida sun. Little attention was likely paid to the sentinels on the beach towers who, for almost a century, have stood the watch to ensure the safety and the survival of those who come to Jacksonville’s shores yet they are owed a debt that can never be fully repaid.

Since the summer of 1912, when a dozen volunteers formed the United States Volunteer Life Saving Corps at what was then called Pablo Beach, Florida, an uninterrupted chain of men and women have stepped forward to wear the distinctive uniform of “The Corps”. In 1914, the seventeen charter members of the Corps became part of the American Red Cross’s national water safety program as the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps, Coast Guard Division #1. Today, their volunteer ranks include more than 120 active members and hundreds of alumni of the Corps who proudly bear the title of Retired Surfman.

Few if any volunteer organizations can point to the documented record of courage, valor and lifesaving service that is the rich heritage of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps. In its 95 years of service, members of the Corps have recorded 1,430 lifesaving rescues, 1,753 assists to swimmers in distress, and more than 25,000 first aid cases ranging from jellyfish stings to broken limbs. This extraordinary record of selfless service to the community has been accomplished through almost 1,300,000 hours of volunteer service by the 4,000 members and alumni of the Volunteer Life Saving Corps. Today, they continue to build on that tradition as they stand watch over our beaches or as they apply the life skills they learned within the Corps as servant leaders of our community and our nation.

LIFESAVING TIMELINE

1785 Founding of the Massachusetts Humane Society.

1789 Refuge houses built along the Massachusetts coastline for the survivors of shipwrecks.

1807 Establishment of the nation’s first lifeboat station on Cape Cod.

1839 Tragic shipwreck witnessed by Dr. William A. Newell, in which 13 victims attempted unsuccessfully to swim to safety. This event later helped persuade the U.S. government to become involved in lifesaving.

1848 Eight lifeboat stations built and equipped along the New Jersey coast.

1854 Staff hired for each lifeboat station; a superintendent was appointed.

1878 U.S. government bureau of United States Lifesaving Service established.

1890 United Volunteer Lifesaving Corps established, providing rescue services at pools and beaches not staffed with lifeguards.

1908 George Douglas Freeth established first lifeguard training at Redondo Beach, California; received the gold medal from U.S. Lifeguard Service for dramatic rescue.

1910 U.S. Volunteer Lifesaving Corps of New York City hired Commodore Wilbert Longfellow as chief.

1912 National Lifesaving Service organized.

1913 Duke Paoa Kanhanamoku introduced redwood surfboard to Long Beach, California; lifeguards for use as rescue equipment.

1914 Longfellow organized Red Cross Lifesaving Corps.

1915 U.S. Lifesaving Service merged with Revenue Cutter Service, creating the U.S.Coast
Guard.

Protect and Serve

“On the afternoon of Thursday, October 3rd, 1963, while on duty near Third Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach, Police Officer and Retired Surfman Sergeant Gill Lineberry responded to a call by witnesses on the beach that two women were caught in the heavy surf of a treacherous late season runout and were in clear danger of drowning. Retired Surfman Lineberry arrived at the scene, immediately removed his police uniform shirt and shoes, grabbed a surfboard from a nearby surfer and swam swiftly to the two struggling victims. After successfully placing the mother and her seventeen-year-old daughter on the surfboard, Retired Surfman Lineberry guided his charges back towards shore, eventually reaching onlookers who had formed a human chain into the heavy surf and currents to help bring the victims to safety.”

“The rapid response and alert actions of Retired Surfman Lineberry, which resulted in the saving of two human lives, were in keeping with the highest standards of the American Red Cross and reflect great credit upon himself and the Volunteer Life Saving Corps.”

On sundays and holidays, members of the ARC Volunteer Life Saving Corps take responsibility for the guard of the public beach of Jacksonville Beach, just as they have done since 1912. This is strictly a volunteer service that functions as a highly competent and professional force. The members are well trained and disciplined in the most modern techniques of lifesaving as well as in tradition that has placed the organization at the forefront of the service.

Early in the morning the mate and crew begin their duties that last until late in the day. The peg is the first guard posted with the raising of the flags; the American flag in the center, the ARC flag on the right, the crew flag to the left (crew 1 or 2), and most recently, warning flags designating beach conditions fly below the crew flag.

The Corps was the first such volunteer organization and although many others were formed, first by the U.S. Coast Guard and then by the American Red Cross, we are the only remaining volunteer group. The lifeguards’ buoy that is used throughout the world was first developed here by Henry Walters and was called the Walters’ Torpedo Buoy.

Other techniques pioneered by the Corps and in use today are the strict training of recruits, the flag relay system, the rapid response backup and the hourly changing of the guard. The flag on the tower is used to signal the station for assistance. If the guard leaves the tower for any reason, the flag is dropped and the buoy must accompany the guard. In the case of a non-emergency event, the guard may wave the flag to request assistance. Guard towers between the outlying tower and the station relay the flag in like manner. In addition, there are towers with radios that are designated to call in the message.

The Corps is composed of men and women in good standing ranging in ages from 16 to 60+. All of the members must have completed a rigorous training course and examination before becoming part of the body. Upon completion the recruits become recruit surfmen until completing the first season. During that time the surfmen are to look out for the newest members and guide them towards becoming seasoned guards. Many of the members have gone on to join the U.S. Marine Corps and other elite forces, and our paramilitary tradition shares the term Esprit d’ Corps in the same manner.

2014 STAFF OFFICERS

Captain Jelisse Marrero
Lieutenant Ricky McDill
Instructor Davey Jones
Asst Inst Rob Miller
Mate Tom Cassaro
Mate Ryan Karish
Mate Charlie Santana
Qm Matt Lydon
Qm Zach Proctor
Qm Nicole Emerson
Reg Martha Stolzenbe