Every enlisted Coast Guardsman’s adventure starts at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey. Eight weeks of physical, academic, and mental challenge strip a recruit down and then build them back up to be apprentice Coat Guardsmen. This life changing period culminates with an impressive graduation ceremony. Graduation day includes time for families to meet each other, an orientation movie and program given by training center command staff, and finally a chest thumping, tear inducing ceremony complete with marching band, rifle drill team displays, and various recruit companies marching by impressively. At this ceremony recruits are called individually to receive their certificate of completion, as families cheer and celebrate their hard work.
A moment this big, is one that most recruits hope to share with loved ones. In the Coast Guard family, “loved ones” is often the term applied to spouses and children, as they are often the number one support team for their coasties. Many recruits though, tend to be younger and not yet married. For these recruits, their number one support team is usually their parents.
Mothers of Coast Guard recruits face their own fears and concerns for their sons and daughters. If they are unfamiliar with the military, it can be especially daunting. The nomenclature of the military is almost an entire different language. There are so many unknown elements about the Coast Guard lifestyle, how often will their son move? When can their daughter have her first promotion? What is life like on a cutter anyway? While a recruiter can answer some questions, there are always more in the back of Moms mind. Perhaps the biggest being, “How can I best support my Coast Guardsman?”
One of the best sources for answers to these questions- the “USCG Moms” Facebook page. On this private webpage, moms of both new recruits and veteran coasties can network, exchange ideas, answer questions and offer each other support. This page is open only to mothers of Coast Guardsmen; new member requests should include accompanying text explaining that they are the mother of a Coastie. Once admitted to the group, new members are welcomed with open arms.
Because the focus of this group is twofold- supporting Coast Guardsmen, and supporting Moms of Coast Guardsmen, a special project is part of the heart of this group.
In April of 2011 one of the group members mentioned she was unable to go to her son’s boot camp graduation due to her financial situation. Knowing how meaningful the event is for the recruit- and feeling every recruit should have at least one support person there if possible; moms began to chat about the possibility of helping one of their own. Karin Valentine, a relative newcomer to the Coast Guard family as her daughter had just graduated from Cape May a month before, decided to take the challenge on and coordinated a real drive to help a mom get to Cape May. Karin challenged group members to donate a few dollars, and members answered the challenge. Within just a few days $450.00 was collected, and a “Mom in Need” was identified.
The first “Mom in Need” was a single mother, who had raised a wonderful son and also faced some incredible challenges. Attending her son’s graduation in Cape May was an impossible dream; neither she nor her son expected her to be there. She received an amazing gift. The “Moms” covered her airfare, and even coordinated with a Cape May local to arrange for her ground travel and lodging. Through it all, Karin kept this “Mom in Need” anonymous. After the trip east, to support her new Coast Guardsman son, this Mom opted to reveal herself to the private Facebook group so she could openly thank them. Hearing her story, the group decided they wanted to help more “Moms in Need” by facilitating more graduation trips. Karin asks for volunteers to help chair a board for this project, and volunteers eagerly stepped forward. The committee of seven got to work organizing for future endeavors. A PayPal account was established and funds began to pour in.
Karin and the rest of the USCG Moms now help finance the “Moms in Need” fund through the sale of silicon bracelets and key chains. To date, five others have benefitted from travel assistance from The Moms, each mom averaging $400-$500 in assistance received. In addition, two others who were unable to attend graduation but could not be assisted in time, have been gifted with DVDs of the ceremony purchased by the Moms in Need fund.
Bracelets are currently sold at boot camp graduation and can also be ordered online via PayPal. Send $7.25 for one bracelet or $22.25 for 5 bracelets (this includes shipping and handling) to firstname.lastname@example.org you can specify colors (from the photo shown) or accept the default mix. Karin says it takes approximately 100 bracelets sold to help one “Mom in Need” attend graduation.
Karin Valentine and the rest of the USCG Moms group remind us, the Coast Guard family is a tight one, and it includes a variety of support people- including good ole Mom.