Our turn to rescue the Coast Guard, and we need your help.

 
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Our turn to rescue the Coast Guard, and we need your help.

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT:

The American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance Fund is running low when we most need to help our Coast Guardsmen and women.  Donate at this link here, and please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.  And then contact your members of Congress and tell them to act now to help our Coast Guard which is in dire need.

 

Imagine one of these scenarios:

Fresh out of high school you get married and have a child.  Wanting to be responsible and patriotic, you join the Coast Guard.  You head out for training and when you return, you and your wife have child number two.  After a few years you've made it up to E4 and you get a new duty station: Alaska.  You're excited because Alaska is beautiful, and a great place to raise kids, but it's far from what you've known, far from your family.  But off you go.  Eventually you get an even more exciting set of orders, you are off to Antarctica for a while on a polar expedition.  Your wife and kids will be staying in Alaska, but you are off for the exciting trip of a lifetime.  And then, right after you leave, your wife stops getting paid.  She'd love to talk to you because she's scared and doesn't know what to do, but you are half a world away, and what can you do from there?

Or imagine you are an E3 with 2 kids.  You'd joined because of the oportunities and felt it was best for your family.  You'd done pretty well and been selected to attend training in California, which would in turn provide you an opportunity to get another promotion and have a little more money for your kids.  The problem is, you are stationed in Texas, and the school is in California.  On top of that, not only are you not getting paid for the work you are doing, because of the shutdown in Washington, D.C. the Coast Guard travel office can't cut you orders or get you reimbursed.  Your school is still there, but if you want to go, it's going to be on your dime.  And if you don't go, who knows when the next school slot will come around.

Of how about an E5 with 3 kids.  You've been watching the political machinations in DC and you knew you wouldn't get paid, so you squirreled as much away as you could before it started.  But it's going fast, and you're looking at another pay period coming and going without a deposit in your account.  But you want to do the best you can for your kids, and want to make sure they still get enough food.  You've got your house or apartment, but without pay, food is the biggest problem.  Some of your creditors (rent, power, cable etc) have agreed to give you some grace, but the grocery store won't.  So, swallowing your pride you go to food banks and see what you can get.  But there's a problem there too: your youngest child has severe food allergies.  Can't eat anything with gluten, can't eat anything with dairy in it.  You couldn't be more appreciative of what people have donated, but your youngest still needs to eat, and there aren't many gluten-free, dairy-free options at the food bank, and you don't want to appear ungrateful...

These are just three of the hundreds of stories I've read this past weekend going through Temporary Financial Assistance applications.  I worked all day on each of the three days from this holiday weekend, as did most everyone else at your National Headquarters.  I even drove in during an ice storm to grab more applications to sort through.

Here's a local TV news station covering our efforts:

I'm not about to lay blame on any person or body, whether it's the President's or Congress' fault for them not getting paid is a matter of perspective.  But it doesn't change the fact that our Coast Guardsmen are forced to go to work despite not getting paid.  And because no one is getting paid, the childcare and other amenities usually offered on a base aren't there.  

Our brothers and sisters in the Coast Guard are scared, they are in need, and they feel betrayed to some extent by the people in Washington who are supposed to make sure they have the money to train, to protect us, and to provide for their families.  And they can't just walk off the job and find something else that will pay the bills, they enlisted for a set period of time, and there are criminal prosecutions for them not showing up.  But with re-enlistment coming up, you can see how this doesn't help the cause any.

So we want to help them.  In fact, we've been helping them:

“Members of the Coast Guard were last paid on January 1. This is completely outrageous,” said American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad. “There are many things the American public can do. First, demand Congress immediately  pass and the president sign a clean version of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, HR  367. Second, help The American Legion support Coast Guard families in need by donating to The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. The American Legion has already awarded almost $700,000 in nonrepayable grants to junior ranking Coast Guard families in need.  There are hundreds of additional requests already in the pipeline which The American Legion is trying to grant, but we have a very limited budget. So any amount that you can give would be most appreciated.”

Reistad is also calling on bill collectors to offer flexibility for members of the Coast Guard. “Due dates should be extended until the Coast Guard is paid and interest and late fees should be waived,” Reistad said. “We are hoping that the private sector as well as public utility companies all step up.”

In a Twitter video, Admiral Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, acknowledged the gravity of the situation. “Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life  as service members,” Schultz said.

 “As a nonprofit, The American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll,” Reistad said. “But we are hoping that Americans immediately demand that Congress and the White House pay the Coast Guard. Any donations that people wish to make to the foundation will be especially appreciated at a time like this.”

The American Legion has awarded grants to meet the shelter, medical and nutritional needs for the minor children of military personnel since 1925. It is funded by donations made to The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation.

Now, a few quick notes. As the press release notes, we've awarded nearly $700,000 in nonrepayable grants to just under 1,100 Coast Guard families in need over the last two weeks. These families have a total of nearly 2,000 minor children in their households.  Hundreds of families, with thousands of more children in need have applied for assistance have now been put on hold until further donations can come in. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible.

The TFA is funded by The American Legion’s Veterans and Children Foundation, which depends solely on donations, not dues money.  But that fund is running dangerously low, and we have literal stacks of TFA grants to still go through, and there's very little in the way of breakthrough happening at the federal level, as unrelated political squabbles hold Coast Guard pay hostage.  In order for us to make these grants, we're going to need more in the coffers. 

So please, donate BY USING THIS LINK HERE.

And after you donate, contact your representatives in Washington DC and let them know what our fellow service-members are facing.  Congress needs to pass and president needs to sign the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, (S.21 and HR 367) – Call the congressional switchboard, (202) 224-3121.

We encourage all private sector vendors and bill collectors to be flexible with Coast Guard families as Commander Reistad said above. Due dates on bills should be extended until these heroes can once again be paid.  Interest and late fees should be waived. This is a great time for businesses to step up and show appreciation for those  who defend our way of life.

And lastly, look around your community for members of the Coast Guard, and help them if you can.

These are our brothers and sisters serving their country, just as we did when we wore the uniform, and but for being moved to a different budgetary process (where they were moved from the DoD to the Department of Homeland Security) they'd still be getting paid like their sister services.  It's not fair that they should be treated differently.

Times are hard, and right after Christmas most people don't have a lot of extra money.  Add in the cold spells and increased costs of heating homes etc, and it's hard on everyone.  So give what you can.  Because it's even harder when you have no money, no pay check coming, and you're still required to show up for work every morning.  

Again, you can donate at THIS LINK.  Every cent you donate will go directly to those who qualify for a TFA grant.  Our salaries and such are handled through dues and other funds.  100 percent of your donation goes to charity, there is no overhead/costs.

Posted in the burner | 8 comments
 
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Comments

I am a little shocked at the comments following this recent article. The American Legion is a veteran's organization of which I became a first time member last year. My renewal is due but if these comments are indicative of the attitudes of the membership towards the Coast Guard or their understanding of the military and the "call to service" then I am reconsidering my choice. This is not a forum for political agenda or party affiliation (Mr. Ray Slanga), nor is it a place to make sarcastic, demeaning comments towards dependents (Mr. Donald Wieser). It is also not a place to make inference that the Coast Guard practices slavery (Mr. Jim Torpey) or not understand that this situation impacts not only enlisted members but officers, civilians, and some contractors. I am both a Coast Guard retiree and a Civilian employee on furlough. I am more fortunate than some in that I have yet needed to swallow my pride and ask for help. That does not make me better than anyone, only more fortunate. I see acts of generosity across the entire population of the country, despite political opinion or military affiliation. My faith in the country is sound. I am less certain about the intentions of some of the posters on this article. A couple words of support cost you nothing but are worth so very much. Consider that before posting something insensitive, uneducated, or biased.

For what it is worth, I wrote this piece and I agree with you.

It should be positive.  Veterans helping veterans.

Robert,
You are correct in your comments. Good for calling out those individuals for their poor conduct. I am a past commander of my Legion Post and gladly never heard anything like that. We had our typical bantering, but we were all in unison and fully supportive of each other. Sadly there is one in every crowd, and an organization this large is bound to have a few.

It sad to think that as retirees and veterans receiving disability we are just a temper tantrum away from being in the same boat as the coast guard and others that after affected by this senseless and hateful shutdown. I served over 21 years of faithful and honorable service to the military.

Where is all this negativity coming from? As a retired Navy Chief and having worked with the Coast Guard and other military services in joint exercises this bothers me. I remember how we joked about in friendly service to service banter. Joke question was: What's the difference in the Navy and the Coast Guard? Answer: the depth of the water. Really we all need to support all the members active duty and civilians alike. Does anybody remember the SHUTDOWN of '95 -96?" It wa short but people were scared then. Do your part donate not "agitate."

The junior service personnel who need our support through the TFA Fund have no say in the political storms in our government that they are caught up in. It matters not what one's political leaning is, or what one's view is about who is right or wrong in this government/political crisis; that does little for the young men and women who serve. My wife and I have just given a donation. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to give, please remember how tough it was when you were just getting started, and please share your good fortune at this point in life by giving. God bless all.

They fought smugglers and pirates, even on the Barbary Coast of N. Africa! My father was training war dogs in the Coast Guard when I was born. Thousands of Coasties were lost operating landing craft in the Pacific during WWII. It got personal for me in 1964 when stationed on the CGC Ingham out of Norfolk. CG bigl wigs came aboard our ship and two sister cutters looking for volunteers for special duty in Vietnam. I was the junior ET and was worried that I would be forced to go if they didn't get enough volunteers, but apparently they did. After only two weeks of Navy combat training they were sent to Vietnam with 24 river boats, each with a team of 5. The horrifying result was they were all gone in 2-3 months!

Today there are those who opine that our sea borders are more porous than those on land. Before going on shipboard I was stationed on a lifeboat station and was involved in several rescues and two drug busts. Most people don't understand that we are as important to our safety and protection as ever, probably still under manned!

Why doesn't the president just defer enough money from the Defense budget to pay our comrades?

Jim Phoenix ET2, 1962-1966

They fought smugglers and pirates, even on the Barbary Coast of N. Africa! My father was training war dogs in the Coast Guard when I was born. Thousands of Coasties were lost operating landing craft in the Pacific during WWII. It got personal for me in 1964 when stationed on the CGC Ingham out of Norfolk. CG bigl wigs came aboard our ship and two sister cutters looking for volunteers for special duty in Vietnam. I was the junior ET and was worried that I would be forced to go if they didn't get enough volunteers, but apparently they did. After only two weeks of Navy combat training they were sent to Vietnam with 24 river boats, each with a team of 5. The horrifying result was they were all gone in 2-3 months!

Today there are those who opine that our sea borders are more porous than those on land. Before going on shipboard I was stationed on a lifeboat station and was involved in several rescues and two drug busts. Most people don't understand that we are as important to our safety and protection as ever, probably still under manned!

Why doesn't the president just defer enough money from the Defense budget to pay our comrades?

Jim Phoenix ET2, 1962-1966

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.