“Civil, calm, but assertive,” those were the words used to describe the stalwart crew of Belizean seafarers who stood defiant against the Guatemalan navy until they were ordered to leave their reconnaissance mission to avoid further confrontation . Yesterday those ten crew members of the Belize Coast Guard and their captain Commander Elton Bennett received high honors of commendation from their Minister and Commandant for their loyalty and courage in the face of adversity.
“ We would stare upon the cannon’s mouth undaunted. We would fight to the last man, to the last bullet, to the last drop of blood. Withdrawal or retreat is just a phase in military operations. Just like the advance attack, defense, encirclement or breakout; the retreat, a connotation often associated with cowardice is a valuable tactic to be used by any sound military commander—just like the viper must recoil or retreat before he attacks—so must an army make use of this tactic. You were not hostile, belligerent or aggressive; instead you were the opposition. You were civil, calm, but assertive; confident in your abilities, your leadership and command. You displayed nerves of steel to remain composed and mission oriented. Your display of courage and commitment is consistent with the coastguard core values. This was your defining moment and is indeed the defining moment in any man’s life who puts on a uniform and swears to protect and defend this country—this country that we love that has given everything to us; that means everything to us. In the end, we must trust our civilian leadership. We must let defense diplomacy and in the words of our Minister of Foreign Affairs, preventative diplomacy takes it course.
Hon. John Saldivar was also on hand to tip his hat to the brave captain and his crew.
“When I was informed of the developments in the Sarstoon area, my immediate concern was for the safety of those who were out there. But I must at this time publicly commend the admiral and the commander, Commander Bennett, who right on the spot—in the face of these challenges—decided and had the courage to stand up to those who would bully us. I immediately joined the admiral and the commander in indicating that the official position of the Ministry of National Security is to complete our mission and not be deterred by those who would see us fail in that mission. But it was indeed a courageous moment; an act of supreme bravery on the part of those on the ground that we were able to stand firm and to complete our mission.”