Looking back: The year of the Coast Guard family
Posted by PA2 George Degener, Friday, January 20, 2012
Guest post written Petty Officer 1st Class James Robinson, Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, N.Y.:
As a member of the U.S. Coast Guard I have definitely gained a new perspective of my career this year. It was in the fall of 2004 when I became “Always Ready” and donned a Coast Guard uniform for the first time. Since then I have been exposed to a host of time-honored values and traditions; All of which I have been proud to embrace and call my own.
Yet somehow there was always a void, or sense of loneliness that I struggled to rid myself of.
Moving forward in my career, I was fortunate enough to acquire a family of my own. Now I’m sure that everyone knows how challenging having a family can be, especially with the extra difficulty that comes with being a military member. I have multiple children, which can be a daunting task at times. In only seven years and two PCS moves, my wife and I have dealt with quite a few issues, including searching for the right church, acquiring medical documents from former pediatricians, and spending time and money to be re-certified for employment due to being in a different state. There are all sorts of challenges that crop up, and at times it can seem like an endless ocean of adversity.
Nevertheless, I know that it would be much worse if I weren’t in the Coast Guard at all, and I don’t think very many Coasties would disagree with me on that. Because of this I have developed a special appreciation and strong allegiance to my often unsung livelihood.
In the years to follow, it’s this same bond that slowly changed my perspective, as well as my everyday relationships with my fellow shipmates. They were no longer just strangers at work, but real life people who mattered ALL the time to my family as well as myself. The MK2 was no longer just a work partner, but became a person I could confide in. Over time the HS3 grew into a great female mentor to my young daughter, whom I was struggling to relate to at the time. I began to realize that the SK1 had uses beyond the shop and was able to assist me with daily finances and investing. My YNC revealed his skills in mediation and became the voice of reason when my wife and I were on the verge of divorce. My commanding officer proved that he genuinely cared, as he was the first to jump to action when receiving the news that my father had become deathly ill and made sure that I had a way to get back in sufficient time to be by my dad’s side before he passed.
Slowly but surely I experienced this time and time again. I began to realize that if I simply reached out for help, my fellow shipmates were willing to do whatever they could to assist me. Ironically, during my seven years in the Coast Guard and multiple transfers I was always searching for a place to fit in and call home, only to find that the Coast Guard had been there supporting me in the background all along. My fellow shipmates in the Coast Guard actually became part of my family. They showed up for my kids’ birthday parties, threw my wife baby showers and even provided spare furniture when I purchased my first home. The lesson I learned throughout all of this is that a home can be made a lot easier than it can be found.
Finally, when I sit in retirement ceremonies watching our proud members get choked up and shed tears as they address the crew for the last time, I can truly say that I understand. How else should one react when having to separate from family they’ve known for the last 20-to-30 years? In conclusion, let’s all take the time to revise our existence in this great service once in awhile. This will ensure that future members also experience the tradition of the Coast Guard not only being a great career, but a great family as well!