Department of Homeland Security plank-holders and other luminaries from the homeland security community came out en masse Tuesday to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Coast Guard Foundation. The Foundation recognized Norman Mineta, who served as secretary of Transportation on 9/11, and first Secretary of the Department Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
“I still remorse the day, March 1, 2003, that I had to give up the Coast Guard to the new Department of Homeland Security, and I’m still chafing from that,” Mineta told the crowd. “…There is no agency within the United States government, pound for pound, that we get more out of, the United States Coast Guard, than we do out of all of you active-duty. And it just really, really hurt to see the Coast Guard working 24 hours, seven days a week during the time of the shutdown and not getting paid at all.”
Ridge praised the Foundation for its support of Coast Guard families over its 50-year history. “When one member of the family puts on the uniform, the spouse and the kids put it on,” he said. “…So to each and every one of you who contributed to the foundation, and on behalf of all of us who believe, knowing the mission of the Coast Guard and its sustained capacity to deliver day in and day out, 24-7, across a wide range of jurisdictions and in a wide range of responsibilities of which most Americans are totally unaware, I just want to say thank you.”
In a surprise to the Foundation, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz presented Foundation President Susan Ludwig with the USCG’s Distinguished Public Service Award for their work on relief efforts during the government shutdown and through extremely impactful hurricane seasons. During the shutdown, the Coast Guard was the only branch of the military that was not paid.
“We are deeply honored to receive the Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Award,” said Foundation Chairman Will Jenkins. “The recognition that it confers on our Foundation, our people who lead and administer it, and our many thousands of supporters will always be a source of honor, pride and appreciation. The countless examples of dedication, commitment, integrity, service and sacrifice that we routinely see in the men and women of the Coast Guard and their families are truly inspirational.”
“This special award from such a very special organization of patriots, rescuers and guardians is a major highlight in the history of the Coast Guard Foundation,” he added.
Since 1969, the nonprofit, independent Coast Guard Foundation has provided education, support, and relief for the men and women who enforce maritime law, protect our homeland, and preserve the environment. The founding directors of the Foundation were Coast Guard veterans who served together during World War II. The founders, who enjoyed successful careers after their military service, saw that the Coast Guard Academy’s operating budget wasn’t fully covering all of its needs, and they started the Foundation to provide funds that could make up the difference.
“Fifty years ago, our founders saw the need for extended support for those who wear the uniform,” Jenkins said. “We continue to build upon that vision and expand our work in ways that impact more Coast Guard members and respond to the expanded and evolving mission of the service.”
In 1986, the Foundation expanded its charter to support projects that enhance the education, welfare, and morale of all Coast Guard members and their families.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored by the recognition from the USCG and heartened that the Foundation’s years of service to our brave shipmates has had an impact on the overall readiness and health of the service,” said President of the Foundation Susan Ludwig. “We stand ready to support our Coast Guard members and their families when and where they need us most for many years to come.”
Since the expansion of that mission, the organization has provided millions of dollars in college scholarships to dependents of Coast Guard personnel, and through morale initiatives has supplied exercise equipment, learning materials, computers, and more to thousands of cutters, bases, and units across the country.