Today, August 4, 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard turned 230 years old.
In May, 1988, six days after my 19th birthday, I boarded a plane that took me to Philadelphia and then caught a bus to Cape May, New Jersey. There I spent several glorious weeks at Coast Guard Boot Camp.
I think everyone who serves in the military thinks they branch they were in was the best. Certainly, my time in the Coast Guard is a period I remember fondly.
The Coast Guard’s history launched in 1790 when Alexander Hamilton convinced Congress to create the Revenue Cutter Service. For the next 8 years, until the Navy was re-established, the Revenue Cutter Service was the nation’s only armed maritime force.
In 1915, the Lifesaving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service were merged and renamed the US Coast Guard. Over the next few years, other services, such as the Lighthouse Service, joined the small branch of the military.
I always liked that. The smallest branch. When I served in active duty (1988-1992), there were only about 30,000 Coasties. That made it kind of special and intimate in my opinion.
As a teacher
While I taught high school seniors, I was sometimes asked by students about the military. More than a few enlisted, though none joined the Coast Guard. Still, I was one of the few teachers who was a veteran, and I think that lent an air of credibility when it came to discussing options.
I was always proud of these kids who made the very adult decision to join the military out of high school, regardless of branch. It’s a big, life-changing decision that can change their lives.
Certainly, the Coast Guard changed mine and marked the true beginning of my educational journey.
It all comes back to stamps
The United States has issued a couple of Coast Guard related stamps, and of course I have them. The stamps sit in my collection in a place of honor.
But for me, the big turn on is postal history related to the USCG. I love the envelopes and the postmarks, particularly pictorial postmarks that commemorate an anniversary, commissioning, or decommissioning.
They remind me of wonderful, sometimes difficult, days, old shipmates, and good times.
The Guard has given me much. The G.I. Bill, my VA home loan, and my military service is tacked on to my time as a teacher, resulting in higher pay. Tangible.
But it is the intangible that matters. Memories. Friends. Shipmates. Good times and scary times.
For 230 years, the Coast Guard has valiantly served this great nation. I’m proud that for four of those years, I got to help.