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The US Coast Guard: The unsung heroes of hurricane response efforts
Coastlines and water tainted with debris and oil, blocks of homes ravaged, entire towns gone. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian's pass through the Bahamas are shocking, and will only intensify as the island starts to rebuild. Here in the states, large portions of the Eastern Seaboard were slammed and many are now displaced from their homes and lack power and clean drinking water.
Though Americans may not see their work on the nightly news, the brave men and women of the United States Coast Guard, affectionately known as "Coasties," are at the forefront of Hurricane Dorian preparedness and rescue operations, acting as the first response and support to the state governments and nations in the path of the storm.
In the Bahamas alone, our Coasties have saved over 300 lives, and have worked tirelessly to locate those trapped on remote islands, triage and stabilize the wounded, and deliver clean water and supplies to isolated communities.
Last week on our West Coast, the Coast Guard worked with local law enforcement on an extremely challenging search and rescue mission to find survivors of the tragic Conception diving boat fire of the island of Santa Cruz in California. This week, they rescued four crew members in a capsized cargo ship off the Georgia coast. The reports from both events were harrowing, and the fast work done by our Coasties undeniably impressive.
Search and rescue missions are only one part of the Coast Guard's broad mission to protect our waterways and coastlines. Their motto, Semper Paratus (Always ready) is a true commitment, aiding our country every day in port and waterways security, drug interdiction, marine environmentalism, and often dangerous missions through polar ice and across volatile seas.
Last year alone, the Coast Guard apprehended over 209 tons of cocaine, over 21,000 pounds of marijuana, and 1.2 tons of methamphetamine. They assisted over 41,000 people and saved 3,965 lives on our waterways, and conducted over 6,700 hours of icebreaking operations for cargo ships on the Great Lakes and the Eastern Seaboard.
Simply put, our Coasties make the extraordinary look ordinary and they do it every single day.
Despite all of their heroic work, the Coast Guard often goes underfunded, working with outdated equipment and failing ships. Worse still, during President Trump's record-long government shutdown over border wall funding, over 42,000 Coasties and their families worked without a paycheck. This week, the president announced that millions in funds from the Coast Guard would be diverted to pay for his border wall, further robbing Coasties of needed - and overdue - funds for Coast Guard projects.
The Coast Guard deserves better.
I am proud to chair the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As the chairman, I believe I have a duty to shine a light on a branch of our Armed Forces that doesn't get its due for the life-saving work they are doing right now - and every day.
That is why I am calling on President Trump, as our commander-in-chief, to do right by the Coast Guard, stop robbing them of their funds for the border wall, and give the Coasties the resources they need to get the job done. We know from recent devastating hurricanes - Michael, Maria, Harvey, Irma, and Matthew, to name a handful from the last four years - that relief and readiness funds cannot go wasted during or after a hurricane.
That includes the funds for our Coast Guard.
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He has represented New York's Hudson Valley since 2013, and also serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Agriculture Committee.