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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The United States Coast Guard

Few really know much about the Coast Guard. That is until you need them. Most people think of them as the people who run around saving lives when boats run aground, or ships sink or people go missing at sea, or hurricanes strike. That's true, but to use a cliche' that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many duties and assignments of the Coast Guard.

From the Official US Coast Guard Historians Site:

"The United States Coast Guard, one of the country's five armed services, is a unique agency of the federal government. We trace our history back to 4 August 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of ten vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. Known variously through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, we expanded in size and responsibilities as the nation grew.

The service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the Life-Saving Service. The nation then had a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws. The Coast Guard began to maintain the country's aids to maritime navigation, including operating the nation's lighthouses, when President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939. In 1946 Congress permanently transferred the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, thereby placing merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under our purview.

The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and, until the Navy Department was established in 1798, we served as the nation's only armed force afloat. We continued to protect the nation throughout our long history and have served proudly in every one of the nation's conflicts. Our national defense responsibilities remain one of our most important functions even today. In times of peace we operate as part of the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation's front-line agency for enforcing our laws at sea, protecting the marine environment and our vast coastline and ports, and saving life. In times of war, or at the direction of the President, we serve under the Navy Department."

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, 60,000 people were stranded in flooded homes and on rooftops, requiring rescue. Of the total evacuations, the Coast Guard saved more than 33,500 people, including over 9,400 medical evacuations!

During every war and conflict, the Coast Guard has been there. You don't hear much about them because they are not a huge service, just a small group with a big mission that they do very well. When arms and munitions smuggling along the coast and waterways of Vietnam needed to be stopped, the Coast Guard was called in performed marvelously, with the last combat unit remaining until August 1970. During every conflict, from its inception in 1790 and the War of 1812, through World War I, World War II, Korea and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the Coast Guard has always been there and lives up to its' motto, Semper Paratus...Always Prepared.

There has long been a custom that was told throughout our history in the Coast Guard, maybe it's written somewhere, and maybe not, but in the hearts of each and every "Coastie" as he or she takes the oath of service, and remembered each time the call goes out for help:

"The book says you have to go doesn't say you have to come back..."

In memory of seven shipmates that didn't come back from Vietnam...may fair winds always be at your backs and calm seas beneath your feet, the sun shine warm upon your face. In the tradition of the keeper of the light, keep the beacon shining bright for all of us who will follow you home.


Dwayne Clark said...

From one Coastie to another...Nice blog.


Dwayne Clark said...

I added you to my blog roll. Keep up the good work!