Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft
As families, friends and loved ones join together to give thanks, my wife Fran and I are honored to share this Thanksgiving tradition with deployed service members. Nearly 400 years after the first Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the blessings of liberty and freedom bestowed by those who served and continue to serve our great Nation.
Many may not know all the Coast Guard is and does. They may only hear about us when major disasters strike. But what our men and women do, day in and day out, has an impact on citizens every single day.
To the south, breaking a record set just last year, Coast Guard assets seized more than 200 metric tons of cocaine from the transnational criminal organizations that spread these deadly toxins to our communities. I was on the dock this fall as a National Security Cutter’s crew performed a drug offload, the culmination of a whole-of-government approach to combating illicit organizations that wreak havoc in our hemisphere. At the offload, I saw firsthand the dedication these crews, and the intelligence and support teams that back them, have toward this mission. We give them our thanks.
To the north, the 17th Coast Guard District celebrated 150 years of Coast Guard presence in the Arctic, culminating with Coast Guard Cutter Maple’s transit of the Northwest Passage. Our century and a half presence there is a reminder of the need to continue recapitalizing our Nation’s icebreaking assets.
Since 1867, the Coast Guard and our predecessor agencies have ensured national security, defended sovereignty and protected economic interests in the polar regions. We give them our thanks.
The sun never sets on the U.S. Coast Guard, as its members deploy year round, in lock step with the Department of Defense, ensuring national security at home and abroad. As a testament to that, and for the first time in 25 years, the U.S. Navy awarded the Navy Combat Action Ribbon to a U.S. Coast Guard crew that came under enemy fire while aboard USS Mason near Yemen. We give them our thanks.
Service before self is in the Coast Guard’s DNA; it’s a truth that could not have been more apparent than during the ongoing, service-wide response to this year’s hurricane season. Americans witnessed Coast Guard men and women on rooftops, in small boats, in helicopters, at command centers and on ships – all in an effort to save lives. These selfless men and women – many facing their own losses – saved nearly 12,000 lives responding to these historic storms. We give them our thanks.
During these storms, our men and women also worked to reconstitute commercial ports in order to get vital supplies to those in need. Crews and inspectors around the country safeguarded our waterways; the geographic blessing of our Nation that accounts for $4.6 trillion of economic activity annually. We give them our thanks.
For this, and for the countless other quiet and unnoticed acts of service that Coast Guard men and women do each and every hour, we give thanks.
I am proud of the Coast Guard’s devotion: to the mission, to one another and to their families. With humility and gratitude, Coast Guard men and women graciously fulfill their oath to protect and defend the United States of America. To them, I say, thank you.
Adm. Paul Zukunft