Hidden away on a quiet dead end street in Bay Village is the home of Ron Behl. You will not see him out cutting grass or washing his car or walking his constant companion “Scout,” a Border Collie trained to assist Ron. ( Scout is trained to answer the phone and continues to bark until Ron answers).
Ron was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in1997. During the past 13 years, he has slowly lost his ability to walk, stand, use of arms, hands and fingers. MS has claimed a big part of his life, but not his spirit.
His life was one of what dreams are made of: great job, married his college sweetheart Ellen, had the house overlooking Lake Erie and son Christopher. His greatest pleasure was taking his 24-foot Lyman runabout ” Dream Catcher” for a spin with family and friends. Boating had been a special part of his life from childhood. It was one of these friends that invited him to join of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the “Civilian branch of the United States Coast Guard.”
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was established by Congress as the Coast Guard Reserve administrated by the commandant and composed of unpaid volunteer U.S. citizens who owned motor boats or sailing yachts. In 1941, Congress created a military reserve and renamed the original volunteer Reserve as the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.
The purpose of the Auxiliary is to assist the United States Coast Guard by indoctrinating “all owners and operators of small craft in safety requirements in the operation and navigation of small craft.”
A secondary purpose of the institution of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was to utilize Auxiliary crafts and personnel, after suitable training and indoctrination in carrying out certain duties of the Coast Guard with particular inference to those concerned with safety of navigation.
Behl joined the Auxiliary in 1972. He became a staff officer in his flotilla, staff officer in his division and now an assistant staff officer in his division. The position he has as information service officer requires knowledge of the rules and procedure established for all positions within the Auxiliary.
Data input from hand-written forms to computer can be demanding and tedious. What took only seconds, to enter the data, now takes hours. He performs this task by adjustments of the head to move the cursor working from an electronic dot on his eyeglasses, around the screen.
“He continues to amaze me with his abilities as he operates his motorized wheel chair from room to room with a customized joy stick operated with his tongue,” said Larry Davis, flotilla commander for 092-06-04 ER. “The only drawback to this is Scout some times gets in the way as he is always by his side.
“When I asked him, ‘How this happened?’ he remarked, ‘It was as if heaven opened and it dropped from the sky,'” said Davis. “‘Do you feel like “Chicken Little?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘Just a little chicken.'”
This past year The Ninth Coast Guard District combined two Divisions into one. The purpose of this move was to combine the educational and operations of each of the flotillas into one stronger force.
Behl, at the same time, was awarded for his superior performance of duty from Dec. 31 2009 to Dec. 31. 2010, service in excess of 2,788 cumulative hours.