For many Coast Guard members, their service will stop when they take off their uniform for the final time and retire from duty with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Other times, people choose to continue their service. Whether serving as a government employee, activist for a veterans group or even a member of Congress, these people take the notion of service beyond wearing a military uniform.
Rep. Howard Coble was one of these people.
Enlisting in 1952, Coble served as an active-duty Coast Guard member for more than five years, with service off the coast of Korea during the Korean conflict. After departing from active duty, Coble joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, serving 20 additional years and rising to the rank of captain.
After his more than 25 years of service with the U.S. Coast Guard, Coble chose to continue his service. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1979. He followed that with service in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 1984, just two years after retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
During his time in Congress, Coble became a champion for the Coast Guard, as the first chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee during its creation in 1995 and serving as an active member ever since. Prior to this position, he serviced on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, which had jurisdiction over the Coast Guard, from 1985 to 1994.
Throughout the entirety of his tenure, Coble was a dedicated supporter of the U.S. Coast Guard, especially during times of change. He was there for the expansion of the ports and waterways security mission following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and witnessed the transition of the service from the Department of Transportation to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.
Coble also acted as a champion for Coast Guard budgetary needs, fighting tirelessly to support the Coast Guard Authorization Bill and secure funding for the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of boats, cutters and aircraft.
In an interview with the Coast Guard in 2014, Coble said that the one thing he wished was that Americans would fully support the service.
“I wish Americans would more openly embrace the Coast Guard,” said Coble in the interview. “Oftentimes I would go to a Veterans Day program and the four marching hymns naturally would play. Conspicuously absent? You guessed it, Semper Paratus.”
His support of the Coast Guard didn’t stop with his political activities. He was also a life member of the Reserve Officers Association and was highly supportive of Coast Guard Reserve activities, especially in his home state of North Carolina.
He became so well-known for his support of and prior service in the Coast Guard, that his colleagues in Congress referred to him as ‘Master Chief.’
Coble retired from his political service in January 2015, after serving in Congress for more than 30 years. With his combined service time, he spent more than 55 years of his life serving with and supporting the U.S. Coast Guard. He was the last Coast Guard veteran serving in Congress. Less than a year after retiring, he passed away in his home state of North Caolina on Nov. 3, 2015.
“The men and women of the Coast Guard had no better or more humble champion on Capitol Hill than Representative Howard Coble,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft. “He dedicated his life in Service to our Nation with more than 25 years of extraordinary service in the Coast Guard followed by nearly three decades of service as a member of Congress. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and he will be missed.”
Through his dedicated service, one theme remained constant: pride for the service.
“I’m very proud of having been affiliated with America’s oldest, continuous, sea-going service,” said Coble in an interview with the Coast Guard in 2014.