Honoring fallen Coast Guard heroes

As we observe the manners of our profession this Memorial Day, we remember and honor our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who died while in military service. We must never forget that freedom is not free, but is only made possible by the thousands of patriots who stood the watch and selflessly made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our nation. We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.

The Coast Guard has proudly served for more than 222 years. During times of war or peace, Coast Guardsmen risk their lives every day in the service of our country. This is what we do. We protect people on the sea, we protect the nation against threats delivered by sea, and we protect the sea itself.

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This Memorial Day we will have the honor of rededicating the U.S. Coast Guard World War Memorial on Coast Guard Hill in Arlington National Cemetery. Decades of weather and exposure had taken their toll on this monument, which honors Coast Guardsmen who gave their lives during World War I.

Answering the call to both honor our profession and those who served, our Washington, D.C., chapter of the Chief Petty Officers Association took it upon themselves to continue to pay respect to their lost TAMPA and SENECA shipmates by restoring this monument to their service and sacrifice. The chiefs led the way, and I am excited that the U.S. Coast Guard World War Memorial is fully restored and shines once again.

Memorial Day helps us to honor all of our fallen shipmates, including those who are not yet named on a memorial, such as Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne who made the ultimate sacrifice on Dec. 2, 2012, while protecting our shores as a maritime law enforcement officer. When his Coast Guard small boat was about to be rammed by smugglers during a pre-dawn pursuit off the California coast, Horne leaned forward into the point of impact and pushed his boat coxswain to safety, sacrificing his own life in the collision. He put his crew before himself. That kind of leadership is the very soul of our service.

As we honor the “long blue line” of Coast Guardsmen who have gone before us, let us remember that Memorial Day is even more than reflecting upon their accomplishments, commitment and sacrifice. It is about looking ahead at the obligation we all have before us — to our country, our service and to each other. Semper Paratus.