Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Tapp has been to parts of our planet’s oceans that most people do not even know exist and very few people ever get to visit. He has also gotten to do things and see sights that some people pay an awful lot of money to experience, all while having the adventure of a lifetime, making lifelong friends and earning a superabundant sense of pride that less than 10% of Americans will ever feel.
Having served in the United States Coast Guard for 27 years, Tapp’s assignments at stations around the country included search and rescue, law enforcement and boarding officer.
In addition to saving numerous lives, Tapp has served on the high seas aboard Coast Guard cutters and naval vessels where he led military and homeland security operations as well as illegal drug and migrant interdiction operations while enforcing U.S. law and international treaties. He has also held command of Coast Guard units charged with establishing and maintaining the nation’s navigation-aid infrastructure domestically along the West Coast and the Great Lakes.
Today, Tapp lives in Anthem with his wife, Laura, a kindergarten teacher at Gavilan Peak with whom he shares four adult children. Having this year taken the baton from longtime Daisy Mountain Veterans president Dennis Salisbury, Tapp has a long volunteer service record in Anthem and, this fall, will deliver the keynote address during Anthem’s 12th annual Veterans Day Ceremony.
The foundation for serving in the U.S. Coast Guard had been in Tapp’s life from the moment he was born.
“I am the third generation of my family to have served in the U.S. Coast Guard,” Tapp reveals. “So I have some deep roots.
“My grandfather, [Howard Crocker], retired as a warrant officer, having served in the Coast Guard during World War II. Unfortunately, he passed away when my mom was still just a little girl. She was actually born near the Coast Guard base in Ketchikan, Alaska. I then have a step-uncle who had served in the Lighthouse Service, [whose duties were later assumed by the Coast Guard].”
Unsure of what he wanted to do after high school, Tapp attended community college in the Washington D.C. area for the sake of exploring his options. It was at that time that he discovered his interest in federal law enforcement.
“I had a high school friend whose father was an ATF agent,” he says. “I came out to Phoenix to visit them. Her father and I were driving out in the desert during a monsoon to see the flooding and everything that happens, and I mentioned to him that I had been thinking about going into federal law enforcement.
“He said, ‘If you want to do something like that, you are going to need to have some type of prior experience in order to get hired.’ It was literally the next week that I went and spoke with the Coast Guard. And I can honestly say that I have been able to do everything that I ever wanted to do as a result of that decision.”
On the search and rescue side, Tapp was stationed on the Great Lakes on three separate occasions — two of which were at search and rescue stations that act similar to fire stations.
“You stay on duty for two or three days’ time and are available for calls,” he explains. “Then, when someone is in distress, you launch a boat and effect a rescue. And there are protocols in place to ensure that the closest asset is called out, [regardless of which side of the international line the emergency lies]. That is the best part of the job — putting aside all differences and working with other countries for the purpose of saving human lives. That is when you see humanity at its best.”
On the law enforcement side, Tapp spent time stationed on every coast of the U.S., with the exception of the Gulf Coast.
“Our largest ships are national security cutters,” Tapp says. “They frequently patrol areas that are the size of the entire continental United States — particularly the Pacific Ocean, where I used to be stationed. People do not understand how vast the Pacific Ocean is until they get out there. I also did a Bering Sea Patrol near Alaska in the wintertime. That was a great experience.
“As a boarding officer, I led a team of law enforcement officers who did boardings at sea — many in connection with domestic law enforcement, such as boating under the influence, but also many in the international arena, enforcing international law, U.S. treaties and maritime domain awareness.”
Tapp adds that most people assume that the U.S. Coast Guard’s service is strictly domestic, but it in fact patrols and is stationed all around the world and even assists other countries that are not able to enforce their own economic zones.
Tapp also spent time in command of several Coast Guard units whose predominant mission was to maintain the Aids to Navigation infrastructure — everything from lighthouses to minor lights, day beacons, range lights, sound signals and buoys.
“It was actually really cool to be able to carry on that history as basically a modern-day lighthouse keeper,” Tapp says.
Having completed an undergraduate degree in Homeland Security Studies at American Military University, Tapp in 2022 completed his graduate work in Leadership and Human Resources at Michigan State University. After a 27-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, he retired and entered the civilian workforce, taking a position with the judicial branch of Arizona in emergency and threat management.
In addition to receiving certification as a permanent Cutterman for his years of service abroad and at sea, Tapp has also been formally awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Achievement Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
11:11 On 11/11
Taking place over the first two Saturdays in November, Anthem’s Veterans Day celebrations begin Nov. 4 with the 19th annual Daisy Mountain Veterans Parade.
“It starts at 9 a.m. with a parachute jump on the Anthem soccer fields,” says Tapp, encouraging families to arrive early for a chance to see the exciting spectacle and meet the parachuters, who will then present an American flag that has flown over Anthem to the Daisy Mountain Fire Department Color Guard, “That is the flag that then leads our parade at 10 a.m.”
The celebrations continue the following Saturday, Nov. 11, at Anthem Veterans Memorial, where families can enjoy a morning of activities leading up to the community’s 12th annual Veterans Day Ceremony.
Tennessee Grill owner and USMC veteran Ryan Ladiser will sell light breakfast food and beverages starting at 8:15 a.m. ahead of a 9:15 a.m. presentation during which Vietnam War-era veterans and their surviving spouses will be awarded 50th Anniversary Commemorative Vietnam War pins.
Pre-ceremony attendees will also be invited to help decorate holiday cards and care packages that Youth for Troops plans to send to our troops stationed overseas. Therefore, attendees are encouraged to bring and donate small puzzle and Sudoku books, card games, candy canes and lip balm to assist the nonprofit organization’s effort.
Daisy Mountain Veterans will also be collecting stocking stuffers as part of its Holiday Helpers program, which provides holiday meals and gifts for local children and families in need. Patriotic music and videos will be played on large LED screens throughout the morning.
The ceremony itself starts at 10 a.m., honoring all veterans, active-duty men and women and their families. This year, special tributes will be given to the United States Coast Guard, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, the 70th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War and 50th anniversary of U.S. Naval Women Aviators.
Musical performances will be provided by Musical Theatre of Anthem’s outreach group as well as in partnership with Operation Song — a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans, active-duty military members and their families to tell their stories through the process of songwriting.
Accompanying the music will be photo montages prepared by Boulder Creek High School’s TV media production students, under the supervision of teacher and U.S. Army veteran Christy Johnson. A marker commemorating the 250th anniversary of the United States — donated and presented by the Ocotillo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution — will also receive its official dedication during the ceremony.
The celebrations will then culminate at exactly 11:11 a.m. — at which time the sun’s rays will pass through the ellipses in each of the military branch pillars to cast a perfect solar spotlight on a glass mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States, surrounded by 5,400 veteran commemorative pavers in the newly expanded Circle of Honor.
Home Away From Home
Tapp says that, for starters, his keynote address during Anthem’s Veterans Day Ceremony will relay the sheer joy that he felt while serving our nation.
“It is, in my opinion, the highest calling,” Tapp explains. “It certainly also leads you to experiences that you cannot get any other way. I will also talk about the transition into being a veteran and what that means. A lot of us struggle with that, including myself. When you have done something that you are so passionate about for almost 30 years, it can be a bit of a loss of identity.”
Tapp adds that joining organizations such as Daisy Mountain Veterans, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, eases that transition by providing continued camaraderie with people onto whom you can always lean.
“Lastly, I will talk about my role with Universal Health Services’ Patriot Support Program, which provides resources for active duty military and veterans,” says Tapp, noting that programs and services are specifically designed to address the effects of combat stress, post-traumatic stress, depression, substance abuse and other behavioral health issues.
Tapp adds that he is grateful to be a part of a community that celebrates and so strongly values veterans.
“When my wife and I started dating, during one of my first trips here as I was preparing to depart my active service, she brought me to Anthem Veterans Memorial,” Tapp says. “The emphasis that the community puts on recognizing the acts of those who served was one of my first indicators of the type of community that Anthem is.
“When you take Anthem Veterans Memorial and add to it the community’s Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies and the Daisy Mountain Veterans Day Parade, it is even more evident how much this community cares about those who served.”
The retired CWO adds that he never misses an opportunity to show off Anthem Veterans Memorial to his former shipmates during their visits. He also commends the community’s residents and business owners as well as Anthem Community Council for their unwavering support of the memorial, its two annual ceremonies and the parade.
“The Coast Guard will always be my home,” Tapp says. “But between the natural beauty and the way that the community values service members, Anthem has become my home away from home. I say this with a lot of history, having traveled and lived all over the country and the world: Anthem is one of the most patriotic communities that I have ever been a part of.”
Daisy Mountain Veterans Day Parade
Saturday, Nov. 4 // 9 a.m. // Anthem Community Park // 41703 N, Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem // Free // daisymtnvets.org
Anthem Veterans Day Ceremony
Saturday, Nov. 11 // 10 a.m. // Anthem Veterans Memorial // 41703 N, Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem // Free // onlineatanthem.com