It was our one week family vacation. The stress of everyday life began to melt off all of us as we walked towards the beach. It was a perfect summer day on Oak Island, NC. The sky was bright blue with white cumulus clouds drifting along with the ocean breeze. The waves were gently hitting the shore, one after the other. My children watched carefully for the next wave to appear. Their eyes grew in excitement as a large wave started to gain momentum. Just as the wave began its decent, they would flop their tummies on their boogie boards and ride the wave to the shore. I began to smile at the simple joy of riding a wave.
Overhead, almost out of nowhere, we saw a bright orange United States Coast Guard (USCG) helicopter race across the skyline in front of us. My children grabbed their boogie boards and ran to my beach chair rattling off questions faster than I could answer. Why does the Coast Guard have a helicopter? What does the Coast Guard do? Do people in the Coast Guard live and work on a military base? Do they go to war? As a proud Army family, I quickly realized I have not shared much about the Coast Guard with my children.
In our book, 1001 THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT MILITARY LIFE we talk about all the branches of the military, including the USCG . There are great stories from folks like Ben Wiley, who is in the USCG. We’ve included fun facts, terms and other dramatic accounts of how the USCG is (and has been) there for search and rescue missions all along our coastlines and waterways. (Items #12, #19, #46, #370, #640, #728, #731, #754, #892).
The USCG is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security, a primary objective of which is preventing and responding to terrorist activities. There are about 42,000 active duty military, 7,000 reserve military. There are also approximately 30,000 civilian volunteers in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. http://www.uscg.mil/top/about/
On top of its new emphasis on homeland security, the USCG is “always ready” to maintain a constant presence on America’s coasts and waterways still fighting the flow of illegal drugs into the country, intercepting illegal immigration, enforcing fishing laws, promoting marine safety, and conducting search and rescue. (Items #780, #952).
My children’s curiosity continued and asked us to drive to the Coast Guard Station Oak Island at the other end of the island to find out if any of their other questions could be answered.
Coast Guard Station Oak Island sits on Casewell Beach, NC at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It is a small boat station that primarily handles Homeland security as well as Search and Rescue (SAR). http://www.uscg.mil/history/stations/OakIslandNC.pdf
Coast Guard Station Oak Island, the area’s first responders, recently held their 7th annual EXPO and Safety Day for the entire community to come and see the displays and emergency service demonstrations performed by the USCG. (Item #892). Here we learned about many of the skilled Coast Guard engineers at this station like Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Coaker who received the honor of “Shipmate of the Week” for his dedication and work ethic in maintaining the fleet, enabling them to launch at a moment’s notice to help save lives and property.
Coaker was a crewmember responding to a report of a fishing vessel sinking. When the response boat arrived on the scene Coaker volunteered to go aboard the vessel and assess the situation. The fisherman was saved, as well as the ship after six hours of using pumps to dewater the vessel. http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2012/06/shipmate-of-the-week-mk2-joshua-coaker/
Our vacation is over and we are now back in Virginia, far away from the coastline, yet we are so happy the USCG helicopter raced by us on that sunny peaceful day at the beach leading us to learn more about the Coast Guard. We wish we were still at the beach, but want to reach out and say Happy Birthday to the United States Coast Guard on August 4th. (Item #737). Thank you for your service!