The Depot

2021 Guide to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival

Since 1924, U.S. Coast Guard personnel have descended on Grand Haven, Michigan, affectionately known as “Coast Guard City, USA,” to participate in the U.S. Coast Guard Festival that honors the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a badge of honor for the small Western Michigan city which earned the designation officially from the U.S. Congress on November 13, 1998.  

The yearly event began as a picnic when a Michigan Coast Guard station held rowing competitions for those stationed in Grand Haven. The picnic, over the years, transformed into the U.S. Coast Guard Festival (around 1937) that provides family friendly activities with a focus on the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard serving in the West Michigan area, and celebrating the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

These days, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival has an attendance of more than 350,000 people, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Coast Guard leaders also attend the multi-day event.

Grand Haven was the first city to be designated as “Coast Guard City, USA” by an act of Congress that was signed by President Bill Clinton on November 13, 1998. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 28 cities now share that designation, but only Grand Haven is host to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

In 2020, due to COVID-19, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival was cancelled, but ordinarily there’s a long list of stuff to see and do.

First, who doesn’t love a parade? If you’ve got kids, be sure to check the Kids Parade that includes families, children’s organizations, and marching bands, to name a few. If you’re really a parade fan, then be sure to catch the Coast Guard Grand Parade, one of the largest and most popular parades in Michigan. Nearly 100,000 people crowd downtown Grand Haven to show their appreciation for the men and women of the Coast Guard. It is one of the major draws of the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

Is all that parade watching making you hungry? Well, there are a lot of opportunities to eat at the U.S. Coast Guard Festival. There’s a variety of food and it’s a lot like visiting a carnival midway. Plus, local eateries are all welcoming and entice you with their bill of fare.

Once you’re done pigging out, work off that elephant ear by running in the annual Coast Guard Run. The race route is beautiful offering incredible views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. Not a big runner? No worries, the course lengths vary from a mini obstacle course to one mile, 5K and 10K routes. You can also just cheer on the runners as you slurp down a beverage of choice.

After you’ve cooled off from your run (or from your cheering), check out some of the Coast Guard ships which are available for tours free of charge at the Grand Haven pier. When you’re done chatting with the crews, you can stroll down the street to Grand Haven’s Central Park and visit the hundreds of crafters at the Coast Guard Craft Fair which is an outdoor marketplace of handcrafted goods by some of Michigan’s best craftspersons.

If you didn’t run the Coast Guard Run, try the Walk of Coast Guard History, created to recognize the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and the City of Grand Haven. Each year a historical location is chosen by the U.S. Coast Guard Festival committee and a brass Coast Guard seal is installed at the historical site. The sites are located throughout Grand Haven.

Once the sun goes down, Washington Street in downtown Grand Haven is closed so festival attendees can dance in the street. All types of music can be heard. Lastly, look towards the night sky because the U.S. Coast Guard Festival’s fireworks display is bound to please.

Whether you are in the Coast Guard, celebrating someone who was in the Coast Guard or if you’re just interested in attending a great summer-time event that has something to offer the whole family, make the U.S. Coast Guard Festival a must-see event.

The National Guard Birthday

The National Guard turns 384 years old on December 13 celebrating the service and sacrifices made by its men and women in communities, states, territories and around the world. The National Guard birthday marks a significant milestone in the nation’s development of military forces.

“The Guard,” as it is affectionately known to many in uniform, has served in all U.S. wars, responded to state and national emergencies, and they are usually one of the first entities to enter natural disaster areas in the aftermath of flooding, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and other tragic events. In June 2020, nearly 84,000 guardsmen were engaged in domestic efforts involving natural disasters, COVID-19, counterdrug missions and responding to civil unrest across all states and territories and the District of Columbia, according to the Defense Department. As we prepare to celebrate the National Guard birthday, they are still on duty all around the world.

The missions the Guard performs today are far more complex than the role they served centuries ago, but at their core, they are the same in purpose. The Guard supports its local communities no different than the early American militias supported their villages in Colonial America. Like today, militiamen responded to emergencies whenever their towns called them to muster.

Historians in the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History claim that the Army National Guard can trace its lineage back to 1636 when English colonial militias were formed to fight against the Pequot tribe in Massachusetts. However, other historians, including the Florida National Guard historian, have argued that the oldest European militias with lineage to current American military forces are the Spanish militias which are a part of the Florida National Guard’s history dating back to 1565 when Spanish militias first mustered in St. Augustine, Florida. Some historians, including some in the National Guard, believe that Spanish Black Legend may have influenced the National Guard Bureau’s 1950s decision to credit Massachusetts militias as the first European militias to muster in North America.

While the date of the National Guard birthday can be debated, the fact that the National Guard is nearly 140 years older than the U.S. Army is a point of pride for the National Guard. In 1636, the first Anglo-Saxon militia regiments in North America were organized in Massachusetts based on an order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court.

The militia was organized into three regiments to defend the colony. The descendants of those first regiments, the 181st Infantry, 182nd Infantry, 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, are considered by the National Guard Bureau to be the oldest units in the U.S. military and some of the oldest military units in the world. December 13, 1636, the date those three militias mustered, marks the National Guard birthday, according to the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

What colonial militiamen called a “muster,” National Guard personnel now call “drill.” The English militias first mustered in Salem, Massachusetts, three months after the general court had ordered their assembly and that date is now known as the National Guard birthday by the National Guard Bureau.

According to National Guard historians, the militia concept was one used by the Romans. The Spanish used militia, or “milicia” in the 1500s when they explored the world more than 70 years earlier than the English. Citizens were responsible for organizing themselves into military units and providing their own defense against threats. There weren’t uniforms or even uniformity of weapons and supplies.

When conditions for the Revolutionary War began to form, the English militias switched flags, like the colonial citizenry, and they became American militias. It was colonial militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts that fired the first rounds in the War of American Independence against British troops in April 1775. Those English militia turned American militias would join the newly formed Continental Army and serve alongside of the newly minted national army which had formed in June 1775. This distinction is often justifiably celebrated during the National Guard birthday.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and it created a new nation. Colonists once former British subjects, became Americans. The new American nation, as a whole, did not claim its lineage and birthdate to those first Anglo Saxons who arrived in the 1600s because those English colonists were still subjects of the British crown. America used July 4, 1776 as its birthday. However, the National Guard Bureau aligns its military lineage with the English colonial militias and not April 1775 when the English colonial militias officially took up arms against the British crown and they became American militias. The National Guard Bureau does not recognize April 19, 1775 as the National Guard birthday.

The National Defense Act of June 1916, signed by President Woodrow Wilson mandated use of the term “National Guard,” a term which had been used by New York’s militia before the Civil War. The law expanded the size and scope of the network of states’ militias and it defined the National Guard’s role as a permanent reserve force to augment active forces. The law also brought the militias under greater federal control and gave the president authority to mobilize National Guard forces for national emergencies.

The National Guard birthday is separate from the birthday of the Air National Guard which is September 18, 1947, the same as the birthday of the U.S. Air Force. On this date, the National Security Act of 1947 authorized legislation for the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. National Guard Army Air Forces transferred to the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force.

The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in the New York National Guard as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, on Nov. 22, 1915. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous service is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard. It was organized as the 109th Observation Squadron Jan. 17, 1921.

The Armed Forces Medley

The Armed Forces Medley, sometimes known as the Armed Forces Salute, is the collection of the official songs of the six military uniformed services of the United States performed in order of precedence. The U.S. Space Force does not yet have a song, but the other songs, when played as a medley, are usually played in this order: Semper Paratus,  Space Force Song (unnamed as of today), The U.S. Air Force, Anchors Aweigh, the Marines’ Hymn and The Army Goes Rolling Along. 

U.S. Coast Guard
According to U.S. Coast Guard history office, no one seems to know exactly how Semper Paratus was chosen as the Coast Guard’s motto. However, there is no doubt about who made the motto into music. In 1927, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Francis Saltus Van Boskerck wrote the music of what would become the Coast Guard song on a dilapidated piano in Alaska that belonged to the wife of a fur trader, likely the only piano on the Aleutian Islands. 

The current verse, as well as a second chorus, were written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet and Lieutenant Walton Butterfield in 1943. In 1969, the first line of the chorus was changed from “So here's the Coast Guard marching song, we sing on land and sea” to “We’re always ready for the call, we place our trust in Thee.”

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Semper Paratus which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

We’re always ready for the call, we place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale, high shall our purpose be.
“Semper Paratus” is our guide, our fame, our glory, too.
To fight to save or fight and die, aye! Coast Guard we are for you!

U.S. Air Force
In 1938, Liberty magazine at the urging of the Army Air Corps leaders, decided to have a song-writing contest and offered $1,000 prize to the winning composer if they penned a song about the U.S. Army Air Corps. More than 700 compositions were received but it was Robert MacArthur Crawford who wrote the winning song in 1939.

Adopted in the late 1940s, the song is often referred to as the Wild Blue Yonder, but it is officially called, The U.S. Air Force. Crawford originally named the song “Army Air Corps” but during World War II, the service was renamed “Army Air Forces” and the song title was changed. In 1947, when the Air Force became a separate service, the song was retitled, The U.S. Air Force.

Crawford during World War I attempted to become a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service but was found to be underage. During World War II, Crawford flew for the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Force. 

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The U.S. Air Force which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, at ‘em now, give ‘em the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under, off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey! Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!

The song in May 2020 went through its final rewrite to make the song gender neutral.

U.S. Navy
Anchors Aweigh is the fight song of the U.S. Naval Academy as well as the song of the U.S. Navy. It was composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmermann with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. When he composed Anchors Aweigh, Zimmermann was a lieutenant and the bandmaster of the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Miles was a midshipman at the academy, a part of the class of 1907. Miles asked Zimmermann to help him compose a song for his class. Another academy midshipman, Royal Lovell would write the third verse.

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Anchors Aweigh which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

Anchors Aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh!
Farewell to foreign shores, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay;
Through our last night ashore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home!

U.S. Marine Corps
According to the U.S. Marine Band, The Marines’ Hymn is the oldest service song in the nation. The music to the hymn is believed to have originated in the opera Geneviéve de Brabant composed by the French composer Jacques Offenbach. Originally written in 1859, Offenbach revised the work and expanded it in 1867. The revised version included the song “Couplets des Deux Hommes d’Armes” and is the musical source of The Marines’ Hymn.

The author of the words to the hymn is unknown. In 1929 the commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the following verses of The Marines’ Hymn. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Marines’ Hymn which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

U.S. Army
According to the U.S. Army Band, The Army Goes Rolling Along was originally written by field artillery officer Edmund L. Gruber while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. Interestingly, according to the U.S. Army Band, one of Gruber’s relatives wrote the holiday classic, Silent Night.

Gruber initially titled the Army song the Caisson Song. Years later, the Army song was adapted into a march by John Philip Sousa and renamed The Field Artillery Song. During World War I, more than 750,000 copies of the song sold and Gruber eventually cashed in, demanding Sousa pay him a portion of the royalties since he was the original author.

In 1956, Gruber’s song became the official song of the Army and it was retitled, The Army Goes Rolling Along. The lyrics were rewritten by Harold Arberg who was a music advisor to the Army’s adjutant general. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Army Goes Rolling Along which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

First to fight for the right and to build the Nation’s might,
and the Army goes rolling along.
Proud of all we have done, fighting till the battle’s won,
and the Army goes rolling along.
Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey! The Army's on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong.
For where ever we go, you will always know, that the Army goes rolling along.

When the Armed Forces Medley is played, veterans of the services and current active duty and National Guard and reserve members, whether or not they are in uniform are asked to stand as their service song plays.

Today in Marine Corps History

If you’re a Marine or just a big fan of Marines, here’s some information to help you recognize their major milestones over the course of American history.

November 10, 1775: The Continental Congress passes legislation that two Marine battalions be raised for service as landing parties in the Continental Navy. The Marines served throughout the Revolutionary War, but in 1783 at the end of the war, they were completely disbanded. In 1798, 15 years later, they would be formed again. Despite the break in service, Nov. 10, 1775 is still considered to be the “birthday” of the U.S. Marines Corps. So, today in Marine Corps history marks the birthday of the Marine Corps.

March 3, 1776:  Today in Marine Corps history, the Marines descended on Fort Nassau in the Bahamas. The British military had been storing munitions in the Bahamas for use against the colonies in the Revolutionary War. Initially, more than 200 barrels of gunpowder were moved from Virginia to the Bahamas by the British. Learning of the cache, the newly formed Continental Marines sailed to the Bahamas with 235 Marines and captured not just full stores of gunpowder, but also other weapons. The British surrendered within minutes after the Marines came ashore.

April 27, 1805: Today in Marine Corps history the Battle of Derna began. There are a lot of misconceptions from this battle, but what isn’t up for debate is that it was a decisive victory. The battle was led by U.S. Army Lt. William Eaton who helped organize a mercenary army which included eight U.S. Marines under the command of U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Presley Neville O’Bannon. Pirates were raiding ships off the Barbary Coast so American forces were sent to protect American ships. The eight Marines who fought there wore high leather collars with their uniforms to protect against saber cuts, hence their nickname, “leathernecks.” The force landed and after recruiting a multinational force which included Greeks and Arabs, they marched 600 miles to Derna, Libya where they fought. They also rescued the crew of the USS Philadelphia which had been held hostage. The victory helped secure trading areas and protected U.S. ships. It was the first victory for the Marines on a foreign land and the first time U.S. forces, albeit a tiny force, fought on foreign soil.

Sept. 13, 1847: Today in Marine Corps history the Battle of Chapultepec was fought as part of the Mexican American War. More than 7,000 U.S. Army soldiers, including Ulysses Grant, George Pickett, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and 400 U.S. Marines fought their way into the Palacio Nacional. Accounts vary from those who were there, but about 40 Marines participated in the storming of the castle. Marines suffered a 90 percent casualty rate. The battle would earn a place in the Marine Corps Hymn as “The Halls of Montezuma.” The palacio is still used today by the Mexican government. Marine Corps tradition maintains that the red stripe is worn on the trousers of the dress blues uniform, known as the blood stripe, to show respect for the Marine non-commissioned and commissioned officers who died while storming Chapultepec, even though iterations of the stripe predate the war.

June 7, 1918: Today in Marine Corps history, outside of Paris in Belleau Wood, the 4th Marine Brigade fixed bayonets and charged at the enemy. They endured low supplies, heavy casualties and blistering enemy fire. After 20 days of intense fighting against the Germans, the Marines won the battle and the Germans labeled them “Devil Dogs” for fighting so tenaciously.

Feb. 23, 1945: Today in Marine Corps history the Marines were sent in to capture airfields on Iwo Jima. The battle lasted 36 days and the Marines struggled with high casualties, terrain that was full of tunnels (and enemy), and a relentless Japanese military that would die rather than surrender. Early in the battle, a group of Marines raised the flag over Mt. Suribachi as a way to encourage Marines below to keep fighting. Later, Marines returned to that summit and replaced the flag with a larger one. The iconic moment was photographed and is likely the most known image of World War II.

Nov. 27, 1950: Today in Marine Corps history, at the Chosin Reservoir, the 1st Marine Division found itself surrounded and outnumbered 8 to 1 by the Chinese Army. Without air support, the Marines were cut off and were forced to fight in temperatures reaching -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless, the “Chosin Few” as they would be called, killed 10 Chinese divisions and fought their way back to the sea as UN forces retreated.

March 2, 1968: Today in Marine Corps history, after 33 days of fighting in what is considered the longest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, outnumbered Marines fought a vicious battle in Hue City against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. The battle started with the Tet Offensive on the first night of the Vietnamese lunar new year and hundreds of attacks were launched across the country. In the end, after block by block fighting, the Marines retook the city.

Jan. 17, 1991: Today in Marine Corps history, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, a coalition of international forces launched Operation Desert Storm to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Marine aviators used airpower to help destroy Iraq’s air and naval forces, antiair defenses and missile launchers. The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions attacked through Iraq’s southern border while 8,000 Marines kept the Iraqi army distracted in the north. The ground war lasted less than 100 hours.

Nov. 25, 2001: Today in Marine Corps history, just two months after the 9-11 attacks, about 1,000 Marines were the first major conventional ground force in Afghanistan sent to fight Al-Qaeda. In 2004, Afghanistan held its first elections. In June 2010, the war in Afghanistan became the longest war in U.S. history. The war is still being fought and more than 114,000 Marines have served in Afghanistan. Two Marines, Dakota Meyer and Kyle Carpenter earned the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan.

March 19, 2003: Today in Marine Corps history, the U.S. military launches the invasion of Iraq first by air, then by land as Marines fight in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. While they served in many roles and in many fights, their most known is Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in November 2004. The majority of Marine battles were fought in urban environments making the fighting challenging because of booby traps and an enemy that often used remotely detonated weapons to fight. Jason Dunham was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq.

Celebrities Who Served in the Military

Whether they are sports legends, movie stars, artists, or musicians, there are numerous celebrities who served in the military and have worn the uniform. Some of these celebrities who served in the military spent a few years in the ranks, others didn’t last that long, and just a few made a career out of it.

I can’t write about all of them, but here is a list of celebrities who served in the military, two celebrities for every branch.

U.S. Army
Pat Tillman was a National Football League (NFL) player who felt compelled to serve after the 9-11 attacks. Once he completed his 2001 season, he left his sports career and a $3 million yearly contract and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002, eventually becoming a Ranger. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and he was mistakenly killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2004, according to the Army. His death and the Army’s attempt to cover it up was controversial. According to those who served with him, Tillman was a popular soldier and he exemplified the Ranger Creed. Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Bob Kalsu who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1970.

James Earl Jones is known for his voice and his commanding presence on the movie screen, but he is also one of our celebrities who served in the military. Jones attended the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1953 and he completed the Infantry Officers Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He later attended Ranger school. His immediately recognizable voice is due in large part to the fact that he is the voice of Star Wars villain Darth Vader for the first movies in the series. He is also the voice who tells news viewers that they are watching CNN and many adults once knew him when they were children as the voice of Mufasa in Disney’s animated film, The Lion King.

Other famous celebrities who served in the military are Army veterans singer/actor Elvis Presley, rock star Jimi Hendrix, singer/songwriter/actor Kris Kristofferson, television host Pat Sajak, baseball player Jackie Robinson, actor/comedian Mel Brooks, cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, rapper/actor Ice-T, actor Mr. T, and crooner Tony Bennett.

U.S. Marine Corps
Bob Keeshan enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945 hoping to get into the fight against the Japanese in World War II, but he never made it overseas. He did earn his Eagle, Globe and Anchor. After the Corps, Keeshan went on to create Captain Kangaroo, an immensely successful television show for kids which aired from 1955 to 1984 and rivaled the success of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Keeshan died in 2004.

Actor Adam Driver, is the second Marine in our list to be a Star Wars villain. He played Kylo Ren and has seen great success as a movie star after he left the Marine Corps where he was discharged after almost three years of service for an injury that he received mountain biking. Since leaving the Corps, Driver studied acting at the Juilliard School, has been on Broadway and in numerous films and he founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a non-profit that brings arts programming to service members and veterans around the world free of charge.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Marines actor Gene Hackman, actress Bea Arthur, rapper Shaggy, comedian Drew Carey, actor George C. Scott, television host Montel Williams, comedian Rob Riggle (who retired from the USMCR), actor Harvey Keitel, actor Lee Marvin, and actor Steve McQueen. 

U.S. Navy
NFL legend quarterback Roger Staubach graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1965. According to the Navy, as a midshipman, Staubach earned college football’s top honor, The Heisman Trophy and after graduating in 1965, Staubach served four years of active duty service in the Navy, including one year of overseas duty in Vietnam. Staubach played in the NFL for 11 years with the Dallas Cowboys and led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. He was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.

Film legend Paul Newman was known for his many movies like Cool Hand Luke, and his voice work as Doc Hudson in the Disney animated movie, Cars. He was also an avid car racing buff and his philanthropic work with his food line, Newman’s Own is still contributing to many charities. But Newman was also a decorated Navy seaman who served in the Pacific theatre during World War II as a gunner on an Avenger torpedo bomber. He served from 1943-46. He was fortunate once when his plane was grounded due to a pilot’s ear infection. The ship he was supposed to be flying to, the USS Bunker Hill, was sunk by a kamikaze bomber and Newman’s unit suffered major casualties. He died in 2008.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Navy veterans actor Jason Robards, jazz great John Coltrane, rapper MC Hammer, actor Humphrey Bogart, television host Johnny Carson, actor Kirk Douglas, television host Bob Barker, actor Henry Fonda, pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura, and baseball great Yogi Berra.

U.S. Air Force
James Stewart the actor from the holiday film classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, became the first American movie star to enlist in the U.S. Army to fight in World War II in February 1941. He applied for an officer commission and as a college graduate and a licensed pilot he was commissioned into the Air Corps. During World War II he would hold a variety of positions, including service as a unit commander. He flew 20 missions as a bomber pilot and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Croix de Guerre. After World War II, Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserve and he ascended to the rank of brigadier general. His last combat mission was in 1966 over Vietnam as a non-duty observer in a B-52. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1968 after 27 years of service and after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60. He died in 1997.

Before he was the man in black, Johnny Cash enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 attending basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Cash would become a Morse code operator charged with intercepting Soviet army transmissions. He left the Air Force four years later in July 1954 as a staff sergeant. A year later, Cash recorded his first rockabilly style songs and thus began his epic music journey which made him a music legend. He died in 2003.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Air Force veterans painter/television host Bob Ross, writer Michael Blake (Dances with Wolves), actor/martial arts badass Chuck Norris, actor Morgan Freeman, comedian George Carlin, television host Sunny Anderson, comedian Flip Wilson, Olympian Louis Zamperini, singer Mel Tillis, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

U.S. Coast Guard
Actor Jeff Bridges served as a boatswain’s mate from 1967-1975 and left the Coast Guard Reserve as a petty officer second class. Bridges has made more than 70 movies, including Iron Man and True Grit, but he achieved a cult-like following as the White Russian-drinking, pot smoking, bowler, The Dude, in the 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski. His father and brother, also actors, both served in the Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Alex Haley enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 after attending college. Haley enlisted as a mess attendant third class since the mess attendant and steward’s mate ratings were the only ratings in the Coast Guard open to minorities at that time, according to the Coast Guard. He saw service in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and he made money with a side hustle penning love letters for his shipmates. He also freelanced and submitted articles about war duty and sea service for Coast Guard publications. At one point, Haley became the only chief journalist in the Coast Guard, serving as the assistant public affairs officer at the Coast Guard’s New York City headquarters. In 1959, he retired from the Coast Guard after 20 years of service to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time writer. Seventeen years after his retirement, he published the international best-seller, Roots: The Saga of an American Family in 1976. The book was later made into a television mini-series. Haley died in 1992.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Coasties actor Lloyd Bridges, hockey legend John Mariucci, boxing great Jack Dempsey, actor Chris Cooper, actor Beau Bridges, golf great Arnold Palmer, film maker Blake Edwards, actor Buddy Ebsen, actor Cesar Romero, and news broadcaster Charles Gibson.

U.S. Space Force
Steve Carell served as a general in the U.S. Space Force. Okay, just kidding, that’s a television show, but maybe right now in the Space Force ranks there is someone who might become a famous celebrity after wearing the Space Force uniform.

For now, the newest branch of the U.S. military is too new to have anyone to have served and gone on to earn fame.

The Army National Guard Flag

Drive through any town in the United States and in addition to the U.S. flag you might see a service specific flag mounted on a front porch alongside of Old Glory. Veterans like to show their service pride. It isn’t uncommon to find an Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or Space Force flag flying on the home of a veteran.

When I was in the Army National Guard, some of my fellow Guard personnel flew an Army National Guard flag on their drill weekends as a way to let their neighbors know that they were on duty for their community and country. They also posted the Army National Guard flag when they went away for training or when they were on their annual training orders, and when they got mobilized to serve overseas in America’s war on terror.

Flags have their roots in military history. They were initially used to signal forces on the battlefield. China is credited for having the first flags that represented a ruler. Today, there is an international maritime flag signal code still in use, but the bottom line is, if you fly a particular flag, it conveys a message about who you are and what you believe.

The Army National Guard flag is easily identifiable. It has a Revolutionary War minuteman holding a musket on it, but in case someone doesn’t recognize the flag, “Army National Guard” is emblazoned on the seal. But while the Army National Guard flag might be easily recognized, the purpose and mission of the National Guard remains a mystery for some Americans, much like military service.

Americans know that there are military people who respond and help during natural disasters and civil unrest. Some of those people might know that the uniformed personnel are from the National Guard, but ask them to offer some details about the National Guard and most will answer with a shrug.

According to National Guard historians, the National Guard traces its lineage to English colonial militias that were formed to combat Native Americans in 1636. Some states, like Florida, claim that their military heritage dates back farther than 1636. The Florida National Guard, for example, traces its heritage to 1565 when Spanish colonial militias first mustered. These militias required all able-bodied men to keep a musket and to muster as needed to defend the colony. The militias were usually under local control and led by a leader elected to the position.

In the 1700s, the militias continued defending their colonies as colonial expansion provoked Native Americans to fight, but the militias fought other nations as well to control interests in America. Eventually, the English colonial militias became American militias when they took up arms against the British Empire in the Revolutionary War. Since its inception, the National Guard has fought in most American Wars and it has responded to many domestic emergencies.

During peacetime each state, the district of Columbia and three U.S. territories, have a National Guard that is led by an adjutant general who reports to the governor. During national emergencies, however, the U.S. president can mobilize the National Guard, putting them in federal duty status. Governors can mobilize their National Guards domestically for emergencies.

According to the National Guard, “Even when not federalized, the Army National Guard has a federal obligation (or mission). That mission is to maintain properly trained and equipped units, available for prompt mobilization for war, national emergency, or as otherwise needed.”

The Army National Guard’s state mission is perhaps the most visible. National Guard units respond to wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, pandemics or other emergency situations, including civil unrest.

Yet, despite its high visibility missions, the Army National Guard has struggled with brand recognition. The Army National Guard's logo, which has been used since the 1950s, does not resonate with Americans of military service age. The Minuteman logo, as it is often referred to, is not reflective of a modern Army. The Minuteman logo is on the Army National Guard flag.

A few years ago, the Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) studied the Army National Guard’s logo and concluded that “The Minuteman, an image revered by many in the ARNG [Army National Guard], was not well understood or recognized in testing,” according to the 2019 Army National Guard Branding Guidelines. “Department of Defense research has not found that a service’s history is a strong motivator for youth to consider military service; as such, ARNG does not plan to use the Minuteman in its recruiting efforts.”

The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2017 directed the Army National Guard to merge its marketing activities with the AMRG. The directive ordered the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard to consolidate into a single organization, all marketing functions to ensure unity of effort and cost effectiveness. This congressionally mandated change came from 2015 recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army.

In December 2018, the Army National Guard introduced its new brand and branding guidelines for all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia. The most noticeable change was removal of the minuteman from the Army National Guard flag and the use of a new logo. The minuteman is no longer used for external marketing.

The new logo includes a gold star on a black background and the words “Army National Guard” emblazoned on a shield-like shape, using gold and white lettering. The name of the state, territory or district is included on the new logo. The new Army National Guard logo closely resembles the Army’s logo.

Army officials have said that the goal of the rebrand was to show that the Army National Guard was an important part of the Total Force and that the Army National Guard works in harmony with its Army Reserve and active Army counterparts.

Another goal of the Army National Guard’s rebrand was to make the service more appealing and reflective of a modernized military to help align local and national marketing efforts. The hope is that the strategy will better communicate the Army National Guard’s mission and make the brand more recognizable at a local level by tying it to the larger Army.

“The logo-specific research involved several potential logo options, color schemes, shapes, and elements reflecting ARNG [Army National Guard] legacy imagery such as the Minuteman and a stylized flag,” the 2019 Army National Guard Branding Guidelines states. “For every option tested, a State-specific version was also tested. The approved logo performed best among prospects and influencers. Data analysis did not find significant regional differences in logo preferences. The Minuteman, an image revered by many in the ARNG, was not well understood or recognized in testing.”

I asked the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and the Army’s Center of Military History earlier this year if they believed that aligning the Army National Guard’s lineage to the English colonial militias was socially responsible given the English militia’s violent past against Native Americans, and given the social justice current in American society. They never responded directly to the question.

“The Center of Military History currently has no effort underway to evaluate the lineage and honors of units and determine whether the members of any particular unit might have been involved in a human rights violation,” U.S. Army Center of Military History Chief Historian Jon Hoffman said.

While NGB and the U.S. Army Center of Military History will not revisit the Army National Guard’s historical alignment, the AMRG’s study on the Minuteman logo captured how some in American society feel about what the era of the minuteman represents.

“In each focus group location, the Minuteman drew some negative reactions from participants due to an association with eras in American history that were not empowering for women and people of color,” The Army’s Branding Guidelines say. “Due to the significance of the Minuteman in the proud history of the Guard, and the youth market’s general disinterest in history as a motivator to consider ARNG [Army National Guard] service, HRR does not recommended use of the Minuteman in recruiting.”

The Army National Guard has said the Minuteman logo will continue to be used internally. On the National Guard’s website the Minuteman logo is still displayed and used prevalently as a symbol to represent the broader National Guard, which includes the Air and Army National Guards. There is no firm deadline as to when the Army National Guard will stop using the Minuteman logo.

The minuteman Army National Guard flag, like flags of old, signals a message. It communicates, but what it conveys depends on who is looking at it.

America's Cold War Missing in Action

On 15 April 1969, a U.S. Navy EC-121M Warning Star, call sign Deep Sea 129, took off from Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, on an intelligence-gathering reconnaissance mission code named Beggar Shadow. The code name was used to describe the Cold War reconnaissance program of the U.S. Navy that collected intelligence and monitored communications between Soviet Bloc nations.

There were 31 sailors and one Marine aboard the aircraft. Nine of the aircrew were with the Naval Security Group and worked as cryptologic technicians, Russian linguists and Korean linguists. Warning Stars were equipped with a fuselage radar enabling crews to conduct long range patrols where they conducted electronic surveillance and helped detect hostile intentions. They collected signal intelligence.

The flight path of the Deep Sea 129 was to take it over the Sea of Japan and when it reached a particular point off the coast of North Korea, the aircraft would turn northeast and then fly over an area more than 100 miles long, flying in an oval pattern and then returning to Osan Air Base in South Korea. It was a minimal risk mission and the plane planned to fly, as usual, in international airspace over international waters. Similar flights had occurred for two years and nearly 200 missions had been flown that year.

Several hours after the mission started, North Korea scrambled jets, two MiG-21s. At 1300 hours, Deep Sea 129 filed a routine status report via radio and did not report anything out of the ordinary. Sensing that the MiGs were enroute to intercept Deep Sea 129, Deep Sea 129 was messaged and the aircraft commander aborted the mission and began to return to base. At 1347 hours, the MiGs’ radar track was co-located with that of Deep Sea 129 and minutes later, Deep Sea 129 disappeared from the radar.

North Korean media stated that the aircraft was downed by a single shot. U.S. officials interpreted that to mean it was shot down by an air-to-air missile. Eight officers and 23 enlisted men, 31 personnel, were killed in what is still considered the largest single loss of a U.S. aircrew during the Cold War.

These 31 men are just a fraction of the personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) as missing in action from the Cold War. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation. Their job is to actively search for those who are missing from World War II to the present.

Today, 126 service members from 14 missions remain unaccounted for from the Cold War. There are about 82,000 personnel still missing from every major conflict since World War II, of that, more than 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea. Some estimates show that at least 4,400 are missing from World War I.

In 2019, DPAA found 217 missing personnel and brought them home. This year, DPAA has found 50 WWII MIA personnel, 20 Korean War MIA personnel and one person missing in Vietnam.

Thousands of service members risked their lives while collecting intelligence on the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea during the Cold War. However, since their sacrifices were made away from traditional battlefields, they are often overlooked by history. Cold War incidents took place near North Korea, the East China Sea, the Straits of Formosa, the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam, and over or near the Soviet Union.

On Jan. 18, 1953, a P2V-5 Neptune with 13 crew members took off from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, on a shipping surveillance mission in the China Sea. While flying along the Chinese coast, the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The damaged aircraft was forced to make an emergency water landing in the Taiwan Strait.

All 13 crew members escaped the Neptune before it sank, and the most seriously wounded were placed onto a raft. While awaiting rescue, two crew members were washed toward shore and never seen again. A U.S. Coast Guard PBM5-G aircraft arrived from the Philippines, made a water landing and rescued eleven from the water. Due to rough seas, the PBM could not takeoff and it crashed into the water. Eventually, the USS Halsey Powell arrived and rescued three of the Coast Guardsmen and seven of the Neptune's crew. The remaining six members of the Neptune's crew were never found.

According to DPAA, these are the Cold War missions with missing personnel, listed in chronological order. Sadly, they are considered non-recoverable and they are listed as unaccounted for.  

  • April 8, 1950, a U.S. Navy PB4Y2 Privateer aircraft flying out of Wiesbaden, Germany, was shot down by Soviet fighters over the Baltic Sea. The entire crew of 10 remains unaccounted for.
  • 6, 1951, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune aircraft was shot down over the Sea of Japan. The entire crew of 10 remains unaccounted for.
  • June 13, 1952, a U.S. Air Force RB-29 aircraft was shot down over the Sea of Japan. The entire crew of 12 remains unaccounted for.
  • Oct. 7, 1952, a U.S. Air Force RB-29 aircraft was shot down north of Hokkaido Island, Japan. Of the eight crewmen on board, seven remain unaccounted for.
  • Nov. 28, 1952, a civilian C-47 aircraft flying over China was shot down, and one American civilian remains unaccounted for.
  • Jan. 18, 1953, a U.S. Navy P2V aircraft with 13 crewmen aboard was shot down by the Chinese, in the Formosa Straits. Six crew members remain unaccounted for.
  • July 29, 1953, a U.S. Air Force RB-50 aircraft was shot down over the Sea of Japan. Of the 17 crew members on board, 14 remain unaccounted for.
  • May 6, 1954, a C-119 aircraft flying over Northern Vietnam was shot down. One of the two Americans onboard remains unaccounted for.
  • April 17, 1955, a U.S. Air Force RB-47 aircraft was shot down near the southern point of Kamchatka, Russia. The entire crew of three remains unaccounted for.
  • Aug. 22, 1956, a U.S. Navy P4M aircraft was shot down off the coast of China. Of the 16 crew members on board, 12 remain unaccounted for.
  • Sept. 10, 1956, a U.S. Air Force RB-50 aircraft with a crew of 16, was lost in Typhoon Emma over the Sea of Japan. The entire crew remains unaccounted for.
  • July 1, 1960, a U.S. Air Force RB-47 aircraft was shot down over the Barents Sea. Of the six crew members on board, three remain unaccounted for.
  • Dec. 14, 1965, a U.S. Air Force RB-57 aircraft was lost over the Black Sea. The entire crew of two remains unaccounted for.
  • April 15, 1969, a U.S. Navy EC-121 aircraft was shot down by North Korean fighters. Of the 31 men on board, 29 remain unaccounted for.

If you have a family member who is missing in action, please visit the DPAA FamWeb for more information.

Coast Guardsmen Earn Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals

On Aug. 6, 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard presented helicopter crew members from Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for a daring rescue in 2019 in California.

The pilot of the MH-65 Dolphin, Cmdr. Derek Schramel and aviation survival technician (rescue swimmer) Petty Officer 1st Class Graham McGinnis received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Their fellow crewmates, co-pilot Lt. j.g. Adam Ownbey and aviation maintenance technician Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Cook, received Air Medals. 

The crews rescued two injured firefighters who were unable to evacuate from a burning mountain during a wildfire in the early morning of Sept. 6, 2019. The U.S. Forest Service requested Coast Guard assistance in rescuing the firefighters who had been injured by falling rocks in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area in Northern California.

The crew flew over the area in the early morning darkness as fires raged below them. They conducted hoist operations and a rescue swimmer was lowered and recovered the injured firefighters who had been struck by a “car-battery-sized rock” and had sustained a broken femur, head lacerations and neck injuries. The injured were flown to the Weaverville airport and transferred to ambulances.

The injured firefighters were extracted just 10 yards from the fire line in a clearing that fire crews had cut to enable the extraction. The victims were hoisted from more than 200 feet above the scorched earth.

A video of the rescue shows the rescue with fires burning under the crew. The audio is of flight mechanic and pilots coordinating aircraft movements; discussing hazards such as nearby trees, fire and smoke: and tracking progress of the rescue swimmer deployed to the ground to hoist the injured.

“It was just the best example of what we aspire to in naval aviation, in Coast Guard rescuing and in lifesaving operations,” said Rear Adm. Brian Penoyer, the Eleventh Coast Guard District commander. "Devotion to duty is embodied in this rescue by the aircrew’s decisions.”

These military medals aren't easy to earn. The Distinguished Flying Cross is the nation's highest award for extraordinary aerial achievement. As a valor decoration, it is awarded to recipients for heroism while participating in an aerial flight.

The Air Medal is a prestigious award that is presented to an armed forces member who has distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement in aerial flight.

According to the award citation, "the flight crew's outstanding airmanship and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon themselves and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard."

Army Begins Issuing New Uniform

Soldiers in the U.S. Army over the years have worn a lot of different uniforms. In the past 20 years there has been an uptick in uniform variations and soldiers have worn the Battle Dress Uniform, Desert Camouflage Uniform, Army Combat Uniform (ACU), and the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP).

Deployments in the aftermath of 9/11 presented problems for some of these uniforms when worn while forward. In particular, there were issues with camouflage and durability, and thus began a long experimentation with field uniforms. There is hope that the OCP is here to stay, at least for a little while.

Then for some reason, in 2018, the Army decided it should turn its attention to the Army’s service uniform. When I was in, we had the green Class A uniform. I hated it, but luckily, I only had to wear it when I was working in D.C. and every now and then for boards, pictures, that kind of thing.

Shortly before I retired, the Army started tossing around the idea of a new service uniform that more closely resembled the mess blues. Known as the Army Service Uniform (ASU), or dress blues, there is no doubt that they looked sharp, but that does not translate to applicability in everyday military life. The complaints came in and many said that the uniform wasn’t practical for everyday business wear. It was too formal.

Enter the Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU), also known as "greens" or "pink and green uniform."

After a few years of testing, feedback, more testing and modifications, on July 8, 2020, the Army began to issue its newest uniform, the AGSU, to recruiting students at Fort Knox. Sales for other soldiers who would like to buy them began July 10. According to the Army, the AGSU is a “nostalgic nod to the greatest generation — who fought in World War II.”

The Army said drill sergeants are expected to be the next group to receive the uniforms, and new recruits in basic combat training and one-station unit training are expected to be issued the uniforms in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.

Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will be the first training location to issue the uniform, followed by Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Army officials said.

Active-duty enlisted soldiers, including Active Guard and Reserve soldiers, will continue to receive their annual clothing-replacement allowance to offset the new uniform’s cost. Other Guard and Reserve Soldiers will begin receiving uniforms no later than the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021.

The Army will stop issuing the ASU and the uniform will continue to be optional and serve as a dress uniform for all soldiers requiring a formal attire. The mandatory wear date for all soldiers is Oct. 1, 2027.

“For the past year, I’ve been wearing the Army Greens,” said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph M. Martin. “Wherever I go, people tell me they love the uniform.

“As we transition to the next phase of the rollout,” Martin said, “I’m excited for the soldiers who are about to receive the uniform. I think that when they see themselves in the mirror, they’ll feel connected to the soldiers of the past and realize they’re writing the next chapter of what people feel about our Army.”

For more information about the new AGSU visit:

Happy 230th Birthday U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard celebrates 230 years of service to the nation August 4 and today, like most days, they will be busy impacting the lives of Americans through their missions.

Each day the Coast Guard investigates 45 search and rescue cases, saves 10 lives and more than $1.2 million in property, as well as seizing nearly 900 pounds of cocaine and more than 200 pounds of marijuana.

Yet because of its law enforcement and rescue missions, and the fact that it is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is often dismissed as a military service, and many incorrectly believe it is not a part of the U.S. military. While it is true that the Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, it is officially a part of the U.S. military.

Title 14 U.S. Code states that “The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy.”   

Title 14 U.S. Code also states: “Upon the declaration of war if Congress so directs in the declaration or when the President directs, the Coast Guard shall operate as a service in the Navy, and shall so continue until the President, by Executive order, transfers the Coast Guard back to the Department of Homeland Security.”

The Coast Guard’s beginning can be traced to August 1789, when Congress created the Lighthouse Establishment. According to the Coast Guard, the U.S. government “accepted title to, and joined jurisdiction over, the 12 lighthouses then in existence, and provided that the necessary support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers erected, placed, or sunk before the passing of this act, at the entrance of, or within any bay, inlet, harbor, or port of the United States, for rendering the navigation thereof easy and safe, shall be defrayed out of the treasury of the United States.’ Prior to this time the lighthouses had been paid for, built and administered first by the colonies and then the states.”

A little less than a year later, on August 4, 1790, the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of 10 cutters known variously as the system of cuttersRevenue Service, and Revenue-Marine, it would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service in 1863. The cutters were placed under the control of the Treasury Department to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. August 4 became the official Coast Guard birthday.

In 1915 the service received its current name when the Revenue Cutter Service was merged with the Life-Saving Service, providing the nation with a maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.

When the United States entered World War I, it sent the Coast Guard under the operational control of the U.S. Navy. In 1918, the Coast Guard cutter Tampa was attacked by a German submarine in Bristol Channel and the ship sank with all hands aboard; 111 Coast Guardsmen, four U.S. Navy sailors, and 16 passengers.

During World War II, the Coast Guard augmented the U.S. Navy and at Guadalcanal on Sept. 27, 1942, U.S. Coast Guard Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro earned the Medal of Honor posthumously. He is the Coast Guard’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Approximately 240,000 men and women served in the Coast Guard during WWII. More than 600 died in combat and almost 2,000 Coast Guardsmen were decorated for their service, six received the Navy Cross. The Coast Guard returned to the operational control of the Treasury Department in January 1946.

During the Korean War, the Coast Guard helped evacuate the Korean peninsula during the first North Korean attack. The Coast Guard also established several long-range navigation stations in Korea and Japan that assisted United Nations forces.

In 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard was mobilized again. President Lyndon B. Johnson deployed Coast Guard vessels to the Vietnam War, and they conducted interdiction and combat missions. The Coast Guard also provided port security, Explosives Loading Detachments, installation and maintenance of aids-to-navigation, established long range navigation stations in both Vietnam and Thailand and Coast Guard pilots conducted search and rescue missions with the U.S. Air Force.

Roughly 8,000 Coast Guard personnel served in Vietnam, supporting both combat and traditional service missions. Seven members of the Coast Guard died in the Vietnam War and approximately 60 were wounded.

In August 1990, the Coast Guard was sent overseas for Operation Desert Shield to support the enforcement of United Nations sanctions. Later that month 550 members of the Coast Guard Reserve were called to active duty in support of Operation Desert Shield. This was the first involuntary overseas mobilization of the Coast Guard Reserve. By war’s end, more than 900 Coast Guard reservists would be called up.

In January 1991, the Coast Guard took 23 prisoners while patrolling oil platforms in the Persian Gulf and during Desert Storm Coast Guard aircraft flew environmental protection missions in the region when Iraq intentionally spilled oil into the ocean.

In 1999, the Coast Guard deployed to the Adriatic Sea in support of Operation Allied Force and Operation Noble Anvil. The Coast Guard provided surface surveillance and search and rescue response and force protection.

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Coast Guard deployed cutters and primarily assisted in force protection and search and seizures of suspected smugglers in Iraqi and international waters. Coast Guard military advisers trained and mentored the Iraqi Navy and they provided technical assistance to Iraqi officials on the implementation of international port security standards and requirements. 

The Coast Guard sent Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment teams to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The teams assisted the units of other services with the proper declaration, classification, labeling and packaging of container shipments as well as the inspection of containers for structural integrity to ensure each one is seaworthy to cut down on potential shipping problems.

In April 2004, Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, became the first Coast Guardsman to die in a combat zone since the Vietnam War. He was killed in a suicide boat attack on a Basra oil terminal off the coast of Iraq performing maritime security.

At the height its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Coast Guard deployed more than 1,200 men and women, including about 500 reservists, 11 ships, four port-security units, law enforcement detachments, and other specialized teams and support staff in order to perform a wide range of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf.

When it is not at war, the Coast Guard is the primary federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. The Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an economic zone encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones.

In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the intelligence community and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

“Recently, the Coast Guard has been integral in overseeing the disembarkation of 250,000 from cruise ships to reduce risks under COVID-19 emergency,” U.S. Coast Guard Spokesperson Lt. Commander Brittany Panetta said. The outbreak of COVID-19 on cruise ships triggered the Coast Guard to enable 31 life-saving medevacs.

War and maritime service aside, two Coast Guard personnel have gone on to become NASA shuttle astronauts, Bruce Melnick and Daniel Burbank. Also, several Coast Guard members attended U.S. Navy SEAL training under a 2010 agreement between the Navy and Coast Guard. The program has since been discontinued.

As they celebrate their birthday, there are more than 42,000 members currently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in a fleet of 243 Cutters, 201 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, and more than 1,650 boats.