As the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard have continued the mission in the COVID-19 era without missing a beat, the foundation that tirelessly works to support members and their families took its annual tribute event virtual to honor USCG heroes.
“Something really special happens when we gather together to pay tribute to the United States Coast Guard,” said Susan Ludwig, president of the Coast Guard Foundation. “During these very challenging times, our mission continues, and our commitment to the service is more important than ever.”
The Coast Guard Foundation gala was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizers eventually decided to stream a virtual 16th Annual Tribute to the United States Coast Guard from Washington on Thursday evening.
“As strange as these times have been one thing we can count on is their dedication and outstanding service to our nation,” said host Kyra Phillips of ABC News.
The foundation’s 2020 scholarship program has awarded more than $500,000 to children of Coast Guard members, and the foundation has also recently provided emergency relief support to members and families impacted by Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Sally, and wildfires on the West Coast.
Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen (ret.) noted at the outset of the event last week’s death of Ensign Morgan Garrett in a trainer jet crash and the deaths of the wife and two daughters of an active-duty USCG member in a North Carolina Outer Banks housing complex fire.
“We care. We are with you. We are your Coast Guard family,” Allen said. “You are not alone.”
Despite COVID-19, he said, the missions remain and members “sacrifice daily” as families in particular are carrying an “extraordinary burden.”
Allen said he “never ceases to be amazed” at what the Coast Guard Foundation does for members and families, putting resources “where they’re needed immediately to help our families.”
Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said the foundation’s educational assistance for spouses of members in addition to dependents helps strengthen Coast Guard families. “These scholarships send a signal that we care and we are willing to invest in their future,” he said.
Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz lauded the dedication of the service through a year of unprecedented challenges from the pandemic to record hurricanes, and civil unrest that “affected each of us in personal and different ways.”
With more than 54,000 active-duty, reserve, and civilians, 25,000 volunteer auxiliarists, 11 statutory missions, and 2,000 USCG women and men deployed globally on cutters, “your Coast Guard women and men are working more than ever,” he declared.
Schultz said the recent challenges faced by the USCG have offered new perspectives and new ways of doing business, inspiring innovative thinking that fosters growth.
Driven by the values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty, “our Coast Guard men and women will always rise to the challenge,” the commandant said, and remain focused on the mission of protecting our maritime interests at home and abroad.
The evening included an auction to raise money for the foundation’s work, along with a virtual happy hour and after party.
“Your trust in our collective ability to provide necessary Coast Guard support speaks volumes,” Ludwig told the virtual audience. “Thank you for being there for members and their families where and when they need it most.”
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 and saw that the Coast Guard Academy’s operating budget wasn’t fully covering all of its needs. 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.
Recent foundation support has included helping Coast Guard families who weren’t receiving paychecks during the 2018-19 government shutdown and giving new fitness equipment to the aging Polar Star icebreaker.
Since 1990, the Coast Guard Foundation has awarded more than $6 million in scholarships to Coast Guard children.