Catalina High School, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Gene Hammel

    I currently reside in Odenton, Maryland, between
Baltimore and Annapolis and close to Washington, DC.
My work has taken me all over the world, from
Antartica to South Africa, Ukraine to Indonesia,
Norway to the Phillipines, United Kingdom to Costa
Rica, and many places in between. I have been so
blessed to have jobs that allowed me this opportunity.

    I have two great kids, a daughter, Susan and a son,
Paul. I got started late so both are in their early
20's. Susan is married to a great guy and they have
two beautiful boys. She's expecting in March and
we're all hoping for a girl this time. Paul is still
searching for his niche and is working and attending
junior college. I'm divorced after many years of
    I'm having a home built in Vero Beach, Florida, and
will move in later this year, and spend much of the
year there. I'll keep my place in Maryland so I'll
have somewhere to put my head when I visit my
    I was diagnosed a couple months ago with a very rare
blood cancer called Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia
(quite a mouthful huh!!) and am meeting with experts
to determine treatment regimen, etc. As you might
expect, this was very painful to hear from the doctor
and it felt like he hit below the belt when he gave
me that news. But I'm OK discussing it now and am
doing research and communicating with others in a
similar situation to learn as much about the disease
as possible, as well as various treatment options.

    After a short hiatus doing other things, including
growing up a little more, I graduated from the U of
A, then worked in Los Angeles until the early 70's
when I moved to Washington, DC, and worked the rest
of my career until my retirement last summer. I had
three distinct careers -- 12 years with a Federal
agency; then 12 years on Capitol Hill working first
as Executive Assistant for U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles
for 10 of those years followed by 2 years as Staff
Director of the Coast Guard and Navigation
Subcommittee, Merchant Marine and Fisheries
Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; followed by
14 years as Assistant Director, International
Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard.
    I wish I'd have kept a diary of my time working on
the Hill; lots of unforgettable memories that might
have made a good TV series or maybe a book. My time
with the Coast Guard took me all over the world and I
represented the United States at many international
meetings and conferences, and negotiated multilateral
agreements, including the international oil spill
agreement after the EXXON VALDEZ accident. I also was
instrumental in authoring the U.S. legislation that
resulted from this massive spill. I've been fortunate
to receive numerous professional awards, including
the Superior Achievement Award for my leadership role
in implementing a three-fold increase in Coast Guard
technical assistance and international engagement, as
well as the Distinguished Career Service Award, which
is the highest award given to civilian employees of
the Coast Guard.
    I also served in both the Arizona and California Army
National Guard for 10 years, rising to the rank of
Captain. During my time as Commanding Officer, my
unit was awarded the Eisenhower Trophy as the top
unit in California.
    I've had my Maryland real estate sales associate
license for many years. I recently obtained my
Florida real estate broker's license and plan to open
my own firm later this year when I move to Vero Beach.

    Yes, and no. Don't really discuss politics or
religion, although I have pretty strong beliefs about
both. I respect others opinions, and believe the
world would be much better off if we all did a little
more of that. The interactions I've had with other
cultures has given me a better understanding how
others live and how they view this ever shrinking
world. World peace is my great hope.

    As many of you remember, my first love was always
baseball. I was fortunate to play semi-pro ball in
Alaska for two great summers with Floyd Watson and
some other wonderful Arizona lads. And we played
together in the Hollywood Entertainer's League -
that's right, in Hollywood. As you might imagine we
were "ringers" brought in to help the team win and we
loved our time rubbing elbows with the likes of Bing
Crosby's sons, Jack Nicholson (he was just as crazy
in real life as he's depicted in his movies), Joel
Grey, James Garner and his brother Jack (who played
pro ball in the Pacific Coast League), Chuck Connors
(of the Rifleman series), and the list goes on. One
of our sponsors was the Rolls Royce dealer in Beverly
Hills and we went to some of the games in his vintage
Rolls Royce cars. We also had the Hollywood starlets
accompany us to the games, including Stephanie Powers
(who was just a budding starlet at that time),
followed by after game parties at various clubs in
Hollywood. Memories!!! Even dated a TV actress for a
short while.
    I've always been active in all kinds of outdoor
activities and remain so today. I coached baseball
for many years and have many fond memories seeing
young boys grow up into young men, and am proud to
have been a part of their lives. I've so enjoyed
watching my kids grow up and being there for their
various activities. And I'm looking forward to doing
the same for my grandchildren.
    I also hunt and fish when given the opportunity and
have enjoyed doing that with friends, colleagues, and
my kids. I love to dance and listen to all sorts of
music, read a good book, drink a good wine or beer,
ride horses, hang out with my friends, and all sorts
of other activities. And I enjoy meeting people from
all parts of the world and sharing experiences with
them -- that has been one of my wonderful rewards
from my work.

    I've had so many it's hard to pick one to be quite
honest. From sitting in a goose blind with a retired
3 star General listening to him tell and retell his
stories from World War II and his bombing missions in
the European sector between flights of geese is
memorable. Hearing that my good hunting buddy, a
Congressman from Alabama, had died at his desk in his
Congressional office on Christmas eve was such a
shock. Then learning of the untimely death of my
former boss, Senator Chiles - who was more than just
a boss but also a friend that we shared hunting trips
together with Senator Sam Nunn, Senator Pete Domenici
and others - who died while working out on his
exercise machine in his office after his retirement
from the U.S. Senate and while Governor of his home
state of Florida was also a shock to me. While one
might say that these aren't good stories, they're
memorable in that they were wonderful men who had an
impact on my life and have helped shape me into who I
am today. They were good friends who had a lot to
share with a much younger man.
    One lesson I learned as a young man was that you
don't make dates with two women in a small town for
the same night, especially when you find out real
soon that they know each other. I took one to a party
and was scheduled to see the other later that night,
but what I didn't expect was that she was also at the
party. They got to talking and I found myself in real
trouble. I lost one right away and then the other
shortly thereafter. This happened during my first
summer in Alaska. Needless to say, I never made that
mistake again.
    During my time as Staff Director of the Coast Guard
Subcommittee, as part of our Congressional oversight,
the Subcommittee Chairman as well as other members of
the subcommittee made a trip to Antartica. We arrived
in Christchuch, New Zealand and met with
politicians/industry folks before our 8-1/2 hour
flight to McMurdo, the U.S. base in Antartica, in a C-
130 aircraft with special wheels/ski's. We were
outfitted with special flight suits, hoods and boots
to endure the very cold weather when we landed, and
the plane was outfitted with the bare minimum in
essentials - web seats about 18 inches wide, little
if any heat, a ten gallon bucket with a sheet draped
around it to do your business (as if you could with
all that clothing), and being advised before the
flight that if the plane went down we would live for
only a few minutes. It was somewhat scary but it was
also very beautiful. After landing we flew by
helicopter out to the Coast Guard icebreaker that was
breaking the ice into McMurdo so the supply ships
could follow and resupply the base. We spent a night
on the icebreaker and were put up in the scientist's
quarters, which were next to the ship's engines.
Fortunately, one of the other Congressional staffer's
had some sleeping pills which allowed us to get some
sleep. The Coast Guard did not have a good working
relationship with the scientific community at that
time which is why they were put up in such horrible
quarters. It's better now though. We met with
scientists/researchers at McMurdo, then flew on the
same plane to the South Pole and met with the
scientists/researchers there as well as had our
pictures taken at the South Pole. We were told that a
shrink comes in every 6 months or so and makes sure
folks aren't going wacky. I can see why that is
needed. What a desolute but beautiful place -
certainly a once in a lifetime experience but not
something I'd want to do again. After returning to
New Zealand we then flew to Sydney, Australia (one of
my favorite cities in the world) and spent several
days meeting with governmental officials and industry
leaders, then made the long trek back to the States.
The end of this story is that Congress authorized
additional icebreakers for the Coast Guard and one is
now built and in operation in both polar areas of the
world, and it has excellent scientist quarters and
much more scientific equipment on board.
    On my last overseas business trip before my
retirement I had the good fortune of going to Cape
Town, South Africa. After the business portion had
ended I went on a safari in Kruger National Park.
Unbeknownest to me, that was when the U.S. invaded
Iraq and travel restrictions got quite dicey. My
friends and family were worried about me being on a
safari half way around the world all by myself and
maybe being killed or something like that and no way
of contacting me. I had no clue what was happening as
I had access to nothing, no TV, radio, e mail, phone,
nothing. I had a great time but caught the dickens
from them when I returned. All's well that ends well.