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CG Day feels familiar no matter the place

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By Kristi Langenbacher
Columnist

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Last week, Coast Guard units around the country celebrated the Coast Guard’s 227th birthday. We enjoyed the celebration at my husband’s new unit in Northern California, but missed the familiarity of the event in Elizabeth City. We’ve attended the festivities at Base Elizabeth City six times and at various other stations over the past 20 years.

Each year bases around the country celebrate Aug. 4 as Coast Guard Day, marking the date on which the Tariff Act of 1790 authorized the building of 10 cutters to assist in the collection of tariffs. The act was suggested by Alexander Hamilton, and the cutters composed what became the Revenue Cutter Service – renamed the Coast Guard in 1915.

Coast Guard men and women around the country come together with their families, friends and those who support them to celebrate the service each year. Events typically include food, sports, games, inflatables, a dunk tank, informational booths and music. Every event has its own feel, from a small-town picnic to a bustling carnival-like atmosphere, and our family has taken part in many types of celebrations.

After just moving from North Carolina to California, we noticed some differences between the two places and to others where we have been stationed. In Elizabeth City, we have always enjoyed the attendance of local dignitaries and other community volunteers who show up to help and show their support for the Coast Guard community.

Having attended the celebration at both bases in years past, we felt a sense of familiarity in California, but not in the small-town way we did in North Carolina. The Alameda event included similar features as the event in Elizabeth City, but also had a zip line, a Coast Guard Enlisted Association Barbecue competition and about a dozen food trucks.

I thought back to years ago when Elizabeth City’s event was coordinated and run by active duty Coast Guard members and their families. The members operated the grills and prepared and served the food to fellow members and their families.

It was quite a relief when in 2007, the event was catered, and catering staff members joined civilian volunteers from the community in serving the food.

Since then, it has become a tradition for civic leaders and local business and community members to volunteer at the Elizabeth City event so that Coast Guard members can enjoy the day with their families.

Like Elizabeth City, Alameda is one of 21 cities throughout the nation designated by Congress as a Coast Guard City. The status recognizes the outstanding support the communities provide to Coast Guard personnel and their families and the partnership between the Coast Guard and each city. Alameda received the designation in 2006, and was the sixth city to receive the distinction.

Elizabeth City was honored with the status in 2015, the same year Carteret County, N.C. received the designation.

And, like Elizabeth City’s Coast Guard Base, Coast Guard Island in Alameda is home to several commands including the Pacific Area Command, the Eleventh Coast Guard District, three Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard Base Alameda.

Although we found ourselves on different coasts from one year to the next, we appreciated the familiarity and the camaraderie at each Coast Guard Day celebration, and enjoyed the opportunity to come together with others to celebrate the service which is so much a part of our lives.

Kristi Langenbacher is a Coast Guard spouse and writes about military family life.

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