Lieutenant Commander Todd Bloch boards his Jayhawk helicopter at Coast Guard Aviation Station Mobile for the last time. He is retiring after 31 years combined in the Army and the Coast Guard. He’s lived a life most of us can’t imagine.When there was danger, he flew toward it, often in weather most of us wouldn’t even drive in. He even got a taste of Hollywood, when he flew a helicopter in Kevin Costner’s movie, The Guardian.
With his friends and family watching, Bloch returned from his final mission. He flew for an hour over Gulf Coast skies. Fire trucks sprayed water as his chopper taxied in. When he exited the aircraft for the last time, he said, “It was way harder than I thought it would be.” His wife Brenda said, “I am not sure I can talk about how proud I am of him,” as she broke down in tears. Brenda is proud because she knows better than anyone the dangers he’s faced.
Like many members of the Coast Guard, Bloch is a humble man. He has spent his career as a rescue pilot, saving lives on a regular basis. We asked him how many lives he thinks he’s saved over the years. It took him a while to tell us, but finally, he said the number is around 40. “I have saved a lot of lives. I have saved a lot of people that are around now. There I go… said ‘I’ 3 times. I never did it alone.” Bloch often talked about his crew and how they all put their lives on the ground. He gave particular praise to the rescue swimmers, who are hoisted down from the helicopter into the water.
Like many others before him and those who will come after him, the Coast Guard highlighted his bravery during his retirement ceremony this week. His son, Barrett showed his pride too. “Dad you are a superhero. I would be nothing without you. You deserve the utmost respect from every person in this room.” Bloch delivered a tearful address. He said, ” I am so happy to have had the opportunity to serve my country for 31 years.”
Bloch will miss flying the Jayhawk, but he knows the pilots he has trained will continue the mission he loved: saving lives. He will now go on to become the Director of Aviation Services for the state of Kentucky.