Veteran's Day is an opportunity to recognize those who have served or are serving their nation in military uniform. We typically think of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard.
While we honor the service and sacrifice of our countrymen from all those branches of the armed forces, we also acknowledge that Southeast Alaska is Coast Guard country. Many hundreds of these 'Guardians,' current and former, serve and reside throughout the region - our acquaintances, neighbors and friends.
With less than 50,000 active duty personnel worldwide the United States Coast Guard is the smallest of the armed services. Its relatively modest size, unique missions, and core values imbue the Coast Guard with a quality more akin to a diverse extended family than a federal agency. Coast Guard uniformed members (active and reserve), civilian employees, and volunteer Auxiliarists enjoy a singular sense of fulfillment knowing their talents and efforts contribute tangibly to a cause greater than self, and goals far loftier than self interest. However, these Coast Guard distinctives also ensure that the loss of a single shipmate or coworker sends waves of grief throughout the Coast Guard family.
This Veteran's Day, Wednesday, comes with special relevance for the men and women of the Coast Guard. A few days ago, a Coast Guard HC-130 rescue plane on a search mission off the coast of Southern California collided with a Marine Corps helicopter on a training flight.
At this writing, all nine military personnel, seven Guardians and two Marines, are missing and presumed deceased. While our hearts are softened and our prayers are whispered for the families and loved ones of the brave Marines who perished in this terrible accident, we share a special bond with these Guardians and their beloved with whom we grieve alongside.
Jesus taught that the greatest love anyone can demonstrate is to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The missions of the Coast Guard require devoted men and women to regularly place themselves in harm's way for the sake of the lost, the injured and those in peril on the sea.
As we look toward to the opportunity to show our appreciation for and honor all those who have served, let's remember those who have selflessly devoted themselves - to lay down their lives - to promote our economy, protect our environment and natural resources, defend our nation, and save our lives - our friends of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Let's allow their example of self-sacrifice through service to others inspire and encourage each of us to find ways to do the same.
Mark Everett is Senior Pastor of RealLife Church in Juneau. Website: www.reallifefoursquare.org.
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