When Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Shannon Riley and his wife, Kate Blackmer, left Rockland May 11 for their new home in Seattle, they were beginning a month-long vacation that would be their longest continuous time together since marrying two years ago.

The cross-country road trip began just after Riley’s promotion May 7 in a ceremony at Buoy Park to his new rank from his former rating of petty officer first class.

“You deserve it,” Maine Lighthouse Museum director and Coast Guard City Committee member Dot Black told Riley before the ceremony began. “The only bad thing about it is that you’re leaving.” In addition to Black, the chiefs and a number of members of Rockland’s fire and police departments attended the event.

Riley was also awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for superior performance of duty while serving aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thunder Bay and for “unsurpassed professional competence and technical insight” during that vessel’s eight-week dry dock period.

“His efforts resulted in full operational capability during presidential security operations associated with three consecutive United Nations General Assemblies in New York City,” the citation said. “Petty Officer Riley’s diligence, perseverance, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended, and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”

Riley was also awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for superior performance of duty from June 2008 to May 2010.

In his remarks, Riley said he took deep pride in receiving the promotion.

“I am originally from Southern Maryland,” he said. “My first experiences with Midcoast Maine began in November 1999, shortly after graduating basic training in Cape May, New Jersey. I had to pull out a map to figure out where exactly it was that I was being sent.”

Riley left Rockland in May 2001 at the rank of fireman to attend Machinery Technician “A” School in Yorktown, Va., returning in July 2004 as a machinery technician second class.

Soon after reporting to Station Rockland, he was promoted to machinery technician first class and with one year at the station received orders to the Coast Guard cutter Abbie Burgess.

“After serving three years on her I with great luck and excitement received orders to the Coast Guard cutter Thunder Bay to serve with the fine Guardians you see here today,” he said. “Thus, I have on this tour served with three of the four Coast Guard units that call Rockland home. Only the Tackle remains untouched.”

Riley said his tour aboard the Thunder Bay, while brief, was packed with a variety of deployments.

“The one that I remember most fondly was our deployment to the Great Lakes in the winter and spring of 2009,” he said. “We were able to assist not only our fellow Coast Guard ships in the Lakes but also the Canadian Coast Guard. The sights of the St. Lawrence River, seeing Nova Scotia from the sea and locking through more locks than I can remember will always be wonderful memories for me.”

“For the current crew of the Thunder Bay: Thank you for keeping me safe for the past two years and allowing us to achieve great things.”

Riley said he was honored to become a call division member of the Rockland Fire Department.

“These men and women took me into their family and trained me as one of their own,” Riley said. He thanked the fire department for allowing him to conduct his re-enlistment ceremony atop the extension of the Tower Three fire truck while the tower was extended over the firehouse.

“My countless hours spent with the fire department earned me the Military Outstanding Volunteer Medal, but it wasn’t about earning an award, it was about serving my community: Rockland, Maine,” he said.

In addition to his service with the fire department, Riley was an active participant with the Maine Lobster Festival Committee and the local Special Olympics.

“During these last six years – many which were spent under way, training at the fire department or on duty – I managed to meet my wife, Kate,” Riley said. “Kate has been there for me when times were as high as the mountains or as low as the plains. She was able to help me through some very hard times, and motivated me to work hard toward chief. I owe this promotion to you my love. Thank you.”

“When I first came to Rockland it was simply a small city in a beautiful area of Maine,” Riley said. “Now it is known nationally as a Coast Guard city and I will hope to call it home again some day.”

In August 2008, Rear Adm. Dale G. Gabel presented Riley with the Military Outstanding Service Medal.

At that time, Riley was recognized for more than 800 hours of participation as a Call Division member of Rockland Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and as a liaison between the Rockland Fire Department and the four Coast Guard units that make the city their home.

As a member of the Lobster Festival team, Riley spent more than 500 hours attending meetings, scheduling and supervising work parties, and, according to the medal citation, “…  buttressing ties forged between the people of Rockland and the Coast Guard that have existed for over a century.”

Riley also participated in the effort to gain for the city the designation of Coast Guard city and learned and played taps at the funeral of Ken Black, known as Mr. Lighthouse, who retired as a chief warrant officer from the Coast Guard.

From July 2004 Riley, who has been in the Coast Guard since 1999, served one year at Station Rockland and three on the buoy tender Abbie Burgess. Most recently he served aboard the Coast Guard cutter Thunder Bay.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.