Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Coast Guard Foundation’s 34th Annual Salute to the Coast Guard in New York City, where honors were bestowed and funds were raised at a gala event in a midtown hotel. Before a crowd of nearly 700 comprising numerous U.S. Coast Guard officers, including the newly installed Commandant, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, local dignitaries, commercial-shipping and shipbuilding representatives, and friends and family of the Coast Guard and its members, the foundation honored the heroic acts of the helicopter crew CG-6515 from Point Reyes, California (above), and the crew of Motor Life Boat 47212 (MLB) from Station Humboldt Bay, California (below). Both exhibited exceptional bravery in the line of duty to rescue civilians in dangerous situations, and a video presentation showing interviews with the Coast Guard personnel involved highlighted both their extraordinary poise in some challenging situations as well as their startling youth.
While all of these dedicated crew members were impressive, it was Petty Officer Second Class Victoria Hansen (above, second from left) who stood out in my mind. It was she who drove the 47-foot MLB in the surf zone and put the boat within range to rescue some fishermen with a rescue throw bag and line. She pointedly said in her interview that she was “not qualified” to operate the boat in the conditions present, but she noted that she had recently completed a training course and felt she could do the job at hand. Without batting an eye. It’s this can-do attitude that summed up the evening for me—there is no “can’t” for these people—and maybe can help to remind us what we’re capable of as a country.
As a way of honoring all those who serve, the Coast Guard Foundation also raises money to finance various programs that improve the lives of those in service by providing scholarships to family members, support for those who lose a family member in the line of duty, and other means of assistance. A fundraising session at the Salute to the Coast Guard provided an additional $200,000 to the bottom line and helped make it a million-dollar evening. If you’d like to donate as well, and help the helpers, pay a visit to www.coastguardfoundation.org.