The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard had this message for U.S. Coast Guard members affected by the partial government shutdown Tuesday night:
“Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that coast guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day to day life as service members," said Admiral Karl Schultz.
Last week, the more than 40,000 members of the Coast Guard missed their first paycheck since the shutdown began. Five hundred of them are in Georgia. Schultz says to the best of his knowledge, this marks the first time U.S. service members have not been paid during a shutdown.
Savannah Miller lives in Atlanta. She’s the daughter of an active duty Coast Guardsman.
In this commentary, she reminds us why we can’t forget this branch of the armed forces.
Imagine this: right now, there’s a sailor deployed out in the Pacific.
They’ve worked a twenty-four-hour shift on deck, they’re exhausted and sitting in front of a blank computer screen. Their internet hasn’t worked for over a week. All they know is that the commandant announced last week that the Coast Guard wouldn’t get its paycheck. The sailor can’t call home to see about the status of their mortgage or credit card bill after the holidays or simply check in with their loved ones. All they can do is continue to protect our borders, police our seas and ensure our national security.
As the daughter of an active duty Coast Guardsman, I’ve heard this story again and again. The United States Coast Guard is the only branch of our armed forces not receiving reliable compensation during the government shutdown.
The Coast Guard’s official motto is “Semper Paratus,” or “always ready.” It makes sense. They have such a unique role in the armed forces, with responsibilities spanning rescuing mariners in distress, to being first on the scene for explosive oil spills, breaking ice in the South Pole and preventing terrorist attacks. They are essentially the search-and-rescue team for every inch of coastline in the United States.
I grew up with sea stories about go-fasts, the ships used to smuggle drugs and interdictions. Once my father described a time his ship intercepted an old fishing vessel smuggling cocaine in hidden compartments. He and a small team spent days and nights on board, only cockroaches to keep them company, rendering the filthy ship seaworthy and steering it to shore. He jokingly called it his ‘first command.’
He also spoke of finding desperate, suffering migrants in dangerously overcrowded boats, and of how proud he was of the way the Coast Guard crew managed the difficult task of enforcing the law without violating the dignity of the men, women and children they encountered.
Just in the last few weeks, shutdown or no shutdown, they interdicted suspected smugglers off the coast of Florida, rescued a sunken towing vessel on the Tennessee River and responded to a container ship on fire near Bermuda. I called my dad last Sunday and he was driving to headquarters to get in a few extra hours of work. They just don’t quit.
Every day, the United States Coast Guard is “always ready” to protect and defend all of us.
And now, when the tables are turned, are we ready to reciprocate?