Sitting down with Yeoman First Class Linda Linders it’s easy to see why she is well thought of in and out of the Coast Guard community. The 30-year old mother of two and 10-year Coast Guard veteran exudes a confidence that seems to be prevalent with the men and women in True Blue.
Linders is The Daily Advance Coast Guard Volunteer of the Year. This is the second consecutive year this honor has been given to a member of the Coast Guard.
Civilians and Coast Guard service members nominated Linders for the honor, and a panel of three judges chose her in a blind judging that included some really good nominations.
That seems to be one of the things about the Coast Guard; it’s a community that gives back not only within its ranks, but also out in the community where these men and women live.
“Anything you can do for somebody else, big or small, is going to have an impact,” says Linders.
The extraordinary thing about Linders’s honor is that she is the second member of her family to be named. Last year, in the first-ever Daily Advance Coast Guard Volunteer of the Year Contest, her husband Darrell Linders, who works at the air base, was awarded the honor.
Linda Linders is also the recent recipient of the Coast Guard’s Military Outstanding Volunteer service medal, “For her continued dedication and devotion to this community over the past two years,” reads one nomination.
So here you have a member of the Coast Guard who is married to a fellow Coastie and together they raise two children – Savannah, 4 and Jordan, 11 — and she manages to volunteer for a number of organizations and events, both on base and in the civilian community.
Linders grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. She says she wasn’t entirely aware of the Coast Guard’s presence there until around age 20. It was then, after realizing that college wasn’t working out at that time, she met some Coasties on the local beach.
“It really happened by chance,” Linders says of her introduction to the Coast Guard. “That was the cool part. I met them at the beach. I thought it was awesome.”
Awesome, she says, was what these guys were doing with their lives. Suddenly Linders became constantly aware of the aircraft and the boats in the area. It seemed the Coast Guard was all around her.
Linders says she went to the Coast Guard recruiting office and once she made up her mind, everything seemed to fall into place quickly.
Linda Linders met her husband Darrell — people call him DJ- early on in the Coast Guard. She says the two of them were eventually assigned to Sector Miami together and it was there that a life of serving others took on a new level of meaning.
The Coasties in Miami had a favorite beach they liked to frequent, but it was a mess, says Linders. She and DJ wanted to organize a beach clean up, but knew they needed the force of numbers behind them. That’s when they decided to form a Miami chapter of the Coast Guard Enlisted Association.
The purpose of the organization is to assist with on-base matters, and also participate in community matters. Morale is an on-base matter, and it seemed that morale and community would be served well by cleaning up a public spot that these Coasties loved.
“We got people from the public works and people from the community involved,” says Linders.
The Miami chapter began doing other activities such as food drives for the food bank and blanket drives for the local fire departments. The Linders were officially involved in volunteer activities both on base and out in the civilian community. And the momentum kept building, especially here in Elizabeth City.
Her husband DJ began a mentorship program, Partners In Education (PIE) here in Elizabeth City. First at the H.L. Trigg School, then eventually at River Road Middle School, volunteers have been giving their time to students who are deemed “at risk.”
Linders says for 30-to-60 minutes a week, they will meet with a student to talk and listen. Hopefully, says Linders, these kids have someone at home to talk with as well, but whatever the case, it seems to help for them to have someone like these Coastie volunteers in their corners.
Linders says as volunteers they not only talk and listen, they also act as role models.
“They’re eager to talk,” she says.
Sherri Ellington, Chief Court Counselor for the Department of Public Safety/Juvenile Justice District 1, stated in her nomination letter that Linders is dedicated to these kids.
“The young lady that Linda has been working with has improved her grades and attendance at school significantly since her match in the PIE program,” writes Ellington. “Linda’s guidance has helped assure that this young lady has remained out of trouble. Linda’s dedication has been outstanding.”
Out in the community, Linders is also a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. These volunteers act as court appointed advocates for children who, for one reason or another, have found themselves in the legal system.
“That was all my husband,” says Linders. “He said, ‘Let’s do this. It sounds great.’ So we did the training together.”
Similarly, unbeknownst to Linders, her mother back in Texas was becoming a court-appointed advocate, too. The juvenile advocate program there is called Casas and Linders couldn’t have been more thrilled about the coincidence.
When she is not out in the community, Linders is also on base volunteering with the morale committee. And it would seem that between full-time service in the Coast Guard, a marriage, motherhood and a whole lot of volunteering, she doesn’t have time for herself – but she does.
Linders says her “me time” is early in the morning when she is working out, staying in shape.
“That’s sacred me time,” she says.
When her tour in Elizabeth City is over next June, she hopes the family is transferred back to Miami. She says they love it there.
Linders says whichever station they are transferred to, however, they will continue their work volunteering in both the Coast Guard and civilian communities. And she says for those who are considering volunteering their time, there are plenty of opportunities out there.
“It all begins with a good idea,” she says.
Good ideas are also contagious. Linders decision to enlist was a good idea and she says her cousin joined after her, and now her 18-year old sister – she’s been excited about the Coast Guard since she was 14 – has enlisted.
It seems that Linders’s family is carrying on a legacy of service.