Written by Jennifer Davis, Coast Guard National Pollution Fund Center
I was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I am affiliated with the Ishak and Coushatta Nations tribes. My maternal and paternal grandparents were direct descendents of the Acadians of Nova Scotia, who also intermarried with Micmac Indians. Their descendents migrated during the Great Deportation, the forced removal of Acadians from Canada, and settled in southwest Louisiana, known as Acadia. Once settled in southwest Louisiana, the Acadians intermarried with the Ishak and Coushatta Indians, and freed people of color.
Growing up, I lived in two different worlds. One was as an Air Force brat, which afforded me a life of constant moving from one base to another, living in the United States and overseas and always making new friends or meeting up with old friends. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience other cultures and to make friends with people of all races and nationalities.
The second world was living among my people in Louisiana. I would come home to my grandparents’ farm in Louisiana during the summers. They had a working farm and, believe me, we worked! From 5 a.m., until early afternoon, there was always work to be done, either with the various farm animals or with crops and such. In the afternoons, we would check on elderly or sick neighbors and either bring them food or herbs, or tend to their gardens or animals. Sometimes we read the neighbors’ mail to them as some were not literate. I believe this is where I first learned that it was honorable to serve others.
In the evening hours, we would sit on the front lawn listening to the elders tell stories about the old days. On Sundays, my grandmother would gather with her women friends and relatives and they would speak in their native language while the men would gather to play drums and music.
My family has served in the military since the Civil War. We have served in every war and in every branch of the military. Native people take great pride in military service and we have great respect and love for our nation. At every Pow Wow veterans are given a special honor.
I enlisted in the Army and served on active duty for almost 13 years. My parents and my grandparents were overjoyed at my decision to enlist.
Halfway through my 13th year of active duty, I had to decide to either stay in and be sent to Korea away from my children, or accept an early discharge, which I took in 1992.
I was extremely fortunate to be hired by the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) as an administrative assistant in 1992.
The NPFC has fiduciary responsibility to administer the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, manage the portion of the superfund that the Coast Guard uses and oversees the vessel financial responsibility provisions of the Oil Pollution Act.
It was a great fit for me because even though I was now a civilian, I was still able to be part of a military organization, which I loved. I believe my experience with various computer systems is what helped me land the job. After a few years, I was able to transfer from the administrative field into the computer division, where I performed various computer-related functions, and eventually was transferred to the NPFC’s financial division, where I am responsible for tracking all incoming collections, and run various reports from our database.
The NPFC is an extremely tight-knit group. Some of us have been with the NPFC since its creation – we are more of a family than just co-workers. It’s a great place to work.
I was also able to continue my military career in the Army Reserves. However, complications from injuries sustained during my military service began to catch up with me and I retired after 30 years of service. I am a 100 percent disabled veteran and a military sexual trauma survivor.
I believe the invaluable lessons I learned from my ancestors instilled the dedication to serve others and to be part of our great nation. They have also helped me endure in times of very painful experiences in my military career and helped me in my career as a civilian member of this great Coast Guard organization.
It has been a greater honor to serve my country, both in the military and as a civilian. I have learned so much from my Coast Guard shipmates, the most important is that we are all Americans first and share a deep sense of national pride.