Minding the Helm (Hardcover)

An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard (North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series #14)

By Kevin P. Gilheany

University of North Texas Press, 9781574417500, 288pp.

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


As a boy growing up in New York City, Kevin P. Gilheany had two dreams: to join the Coast Guard, and to play the bagpipes. But by the time he finished high school he was overweight, had a drinking problem, and couldn’t swim. Undeterred by the doubts of the folks at home, he decided to enlist in the Coast Guard anyway.

With great determination, and some divine intervention, he passed the swim test and graduated from boot camp, thus beginning an eventful and diverse twenty-year career in the 1980s and 1990s Coast Guard. He set a goal for himself to get command of his own patrol boat, and along the way he was involved in capturing drug smugglers, rescuing hundreds of Haitian migrants at sea, recovering Space Shuttle Challenger debris, surviving a “hooligan navy” experience on a Coast Guard workboat, coordinating search and rescue during the famed “Perfect Storm,” and leading armed boardings of ships following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

When he was asked by one of his men, who was dying from brain cancer, to play bagpipes at his retirement ceremony, Kevin started down a new path to have bagpipers officially recognized as part of the Coast Guard. This ultimately led a boy who couldn’t swim to fulfill both of his childhood dreams and leave a lasting legacy by founding the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band.

Number Fourteen: North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series

About the Author

KEVIN P. GILHEANY is a retired U.S. Coast Guard chief warrant officer, professional speaker, consultant, and founder of the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band. He is a recipient of the U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Commendation.

Praise For Minding the Helm: An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard (North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series #14)

“This is a valuable and well-written Coast Guard memoir. Anyone interested in Coast Guard history, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Pipe Bands, or Homeland Security with incoming foreign commercial vessels would be interested in this book.”—C. Douglas Kroll, author of A Coast Guardsman's History of the U.S. Coast Guard and Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf
“Gilheany is a talented writer. I felt like I was his shadow throughout his Coast Guard career.”—Jim Dolbow, author of The Coast Guardsman’s Manual 11th Edition

“An honest and inspiring tale of dogged determination in the face of adversity.”—LtCol Waldo Waldman, author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Never Fly Solo

“Coast Guard veteran Kevin Gilheany has lived a life filled with adventure, from rescuing those in peril at sea to busting the bad guys as an ‘undercover’ sea-cop. Gilheany shares stories from his remarkable career spanning twenty years. An enjoyable read!”—John Jamieson, author of Seamanship Secrets

“Kevin Giheany imparts a profound message, that with hard work and determination, dreams really can come true. If you’re looking for an example of how you can achieve your seemingly impossible dreams, then this is the book to read.”—Shep Hyken, author of the New York Times bestseller The Amazement Revolution
“For someone who ‘never swam a stroke’ before joining the Coast Guard, Kevin Gilheany sure took to water in the career that followed. Minding the Helm is filled with interesting and entertaining anecdotes sure to please Coasties and non-Coasties alike.”—Rich Miller, Editor, Professional Mariner