Dear Coast Guard Family: Military Family Month

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. This first post offers some heartfelt words in celebration of Military Family Month.

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Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Mrs. Valerie Johnson and her husband, Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief Petty Officer Eric L. Johnson, present a letter of appreciation to Chief Petty Officer Nicole Cimino’s husband, Gabriel, during the 2016 Coast Guard Enlisted Persons of the Year Banquet.

Written by Rachel Conley

Dear Coast Guard Family,

Welcome! I’m so glad that you’re here! This blog is for YOU! I use the term “Coast Guard Family” in a very all-inclusive way – there are so many incredible people that make up this amazing community, and I hope that each of you will find something beneficial here.

Many years ago, as a new Coast Guard spouse, I didn’t feel that I had anywhere to turn. I often felt alone and unsupported. I decided then to be the change that I wanted to see. Since that time, I have dedicated my life to serving the Coast Guard community. Without a doubt, you are truly my passion!

This blog will be used to discuss the programs, services, and topics that are meaningful to you. I hope to lift you up and enrich your Coast Guard experience. Please use the comment section below to let me know what future blog topics are important to you. Serving you will forever be one of the greatest honors of my life – I look forward to hearing from you!

It’s no secret – I LOVE Coast Guard families, and I’m especially excited to kick off this blog during Military Family Appreciation Month! During the month of November and throughout the year, I hope that you know how truly appreciated you are.

In recognition of you, I want to share three very special messages of appreciation from our incredible U.S. Coast Guard Ombudsmen-at-Large:

Mrs. Fran DeNinno-Zukunft, wife of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft:

“Hello to the Most Awesome Coast Guard Families Ever!

Mrs. Fran DeNinno-Zukunft with members of the Coast Guard Spouses’ Club of Washington, D.C. at the 2017 Coast Guard Ball.

Happy Military Appreciation Month! I hope that you are shown appreciation year round, because our Coast Guard families are awesome. You didn’t take the oath like your member did, but you serve every day. You’re the ones who volunteer to be one of our incredible Ombudsmen, organize and participate in spouses club events, fundraise for various events, volunteer in the local community and more, all while keeping everything going at home. When a Coast Guard family is in need, you’re the first to offer help, whether it’s meal trains, Cards for Coasties, babysitting or gathering supplies after a disaster. There are so many things that you do for each other to help smooth the way for this fun but often unpredictable Coast Guard life.

Of course making sure that everything is running somewhat smoothly at home while our members are responding to a disaster or deploying is so important but often overlooked. Every time you transfer, you have to start over: new job, new schools, new grocery stores, new doctor … the list goes on. There are times that you might not feel like smiling, but you figure out a way to look at the bright side. You dig deep, become stronger and press onward. Because You Are Strong! You are a Coast Guard Family!!

So I can’t thank you enough. I am forever grateful for the beautiful smiles, the welcoming hugs, and the friendships that you have given me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank You for Your Service – Bravo Zulu!”

Mrs. Janet Cantrell, wife of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell:

Mrs. Janet Cantrell meets with Coast Guard families.


“As we all pause to show our appreciation to military families this month, let me offer my own personal thanks to each family of our beloved Coast Guard.

As a military spouse and mother myself, I know the courageous efforts you all make on a daily basis. I have had the pleasure of spending the last four years getting an up-close look at the love and support you provide and hearing your wonderful stories. You all amaze me, and I feel honored to be considered part of a military family with you.

Thank you all for your service, sacrifice, and for your loving contribution to our service and our country.”


Mrs. Valerie Johnson, wife of Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Johnson:

“Over the Veterans Day holiday, I took the time to reflect on all of the great men and women who stepped up and took an oath to our nation and the sacrifices they made. It’s not just the service member who has sacrificed, it’s the whole family. I have had the honor and pleasure to meet many of our Coast Guard Reserve families these past three and a half years. Their strength, pride, support, love and compassion blows me away. I’ve witnessed families in crisis and others crying with them and giving their love and support. I’ve witnessed others rejoicing over new babies and weddings. I’ve witnessed the pain of families saying goodbye to their loved ones while going off to serve for an extended period of time and the joy of their homecoming. A unique bond is made with military families because only they can truly understand the challenges and impacts that service brings. I’m thankful to be a part of the Coast Guard family and want all of you to know that I’m thankful for you.”

Rachel Conley with Coast Guard Ombudsmen-at-Large. From left to right: Valerie Johnson, Rachel Conley, Fran DeNinno-Zukunft, and Janet Cantrell.

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