At age 225, Coast Guard the ‘very best country has to offer’

The United States Coast Guard is 225 years old this year and celebrations have been going on in Connecticut and across the nation to honor our nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service, the men and women who serve and the vital missions they perform to protect our country.

The observance began in Connecticut earlier this year when the governor issued a Coast Guard Summer declaration. It has continued through a series of celebrations in New London and will officially end Sept. 9 – 12 at the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, also in New London.

The celebration will be centered on the historic waterfront adjacent to the future home of the National Coast Guard Museum, and not far from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, one of our country’s five military centers of academic excellence.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and I are the honorary chairs of the festival that will include a major focus on the Coast Guard, along with the many different aspects of the state’s rich and varied maritime heritage. There will be many ships, including those from the Coast Guard and Navy, and plenty of dockside activities. Attention will be focused on the Coast Guard in a number of ways.

The Coast Guard traces its origin to 1790 when President George Washington signed a law that authorized the construction of ten vessels to help the young nation enforce its laws relating to trade, the collection of federal tariffs, and the prevention of smuggling. One of those vessels, ARGUS, was built in and assigned to New London.

Today, the Coast Guard is a multi-mission, military, maritime service consisting of nearly 40,000 active duty personnel, in addition to reservists, civilians and members of the auxiliary. It may be the smallest of our nation’s military forces, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up in spirit, a can-do spirit that is reflected in the work being carried out daily to protect our country, its natural resources and its people.

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect, and this 225th birthday is no different. Every day, largely out of sight but not always out of danger, the men and women of the United States Coast Guard carry out their oath to protect and defend their country. They work on the high seas to halt the poisonous flow of narcotics onto our streets. They fly into the darkness of night or plow through raging seas on perilous missions to bring people back to their loved ones.

Less dramatic, perhaps, but no less important they also work in countless ways to ensure that the environment, so essential to life on this planet, is properly protected.

Even more than the mission-specific qualities they bring to the job, the men and women who proudly wear the uniform, salute our flag and all it signifies, and live our service’s moto, Semper Paratus, always ready.

I was proud to wear the Coast Guard blue for 39 years, the last four of which as commandant. Given that, I think I am uniquely positioned to say that the Coast Guard, as the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security, represents the very best our country has to offer.

Robert J. Papp Jr. is a retired admiral and former commandant of the Coast Guard. He is now the State Department’s senior envoy on Arctic issues.

 

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