By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, May 14, 9:21 AM
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Orlando Morel was 6 years old when he and his mother left Haiti on a crowded small wooden boat destined for America. Now 24, Morel remembers the blue of the ocean everywhere. And the hunger.
When a piece of bread fell into the water, Morel quickly scooped it up. “I will never forget that taste,” he said, recalling the salty, soggy bread.
Nor will he forget when the Coast Guard showed up in a white boat and rescued him, his mother and other passengers.
Eternally grateful, the rescue led Morel to join the Coast Guard, and on Wednesday he will graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. He will serve on a cutter out of Florida whose mission will include migrant interdiction in the very waters where Morel was rescued nearly two decades ago.
“I can put myself in their shoes,” said Morel, who can still speak Creole.
He says he would probably be dead had the Coast Guard not found him and his fellow migrants, who were lost and out of food. So, he’s excited at the prospect of saving lives, just as his was saved.