Twenty months ago, addressing the graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy in New London and their families, President Donald Trump said: “I hope you feel the full gratitude of our nation… Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you.” He also noted that “this class has been exceptionally dedicated to public service. You served breakfast at the local food bank every single weekday.”
Now, the tables have turned. It is members of the Coast Guard and their families that are lining up at a local food pantry to receive – rather than distribute - donated food.
Because the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, one of the federal government agencies subject to the now more than three-week old shutdown, paychecks have ceased and putting food on the table has become the latest challenge.
Adm. Karl Schultz said in a letter to the Coast Guard's 42,000 members this week that the lapse in pay marks the first time to his knowledge that U.S. Armed Forces service members have not been paid because of a shutdown. Other military branches fall under the Department of Defense, which is not affected by the shutdown.
Published reports indicate that the southeastern Connecticut chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, the Coast Guard Enlisted Association of Southeastern Connecticut and the Coast Guard Spouses' Association of Southeastern Connecticut, set up the pantry at the Academy, providing items including food, diapers, household items and pet supplies.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has said he will advocate for legislation that would authorize paying the Coast Guard, even as the government shutdown continues.
President Trump members of the Coast Guard in May 2017 that “you will face many challenges and many threats, but one thing you will never have to face is that question of what will I do. When you look back, you won’t doubt.” He added, “Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair. You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted.”
Trump also told that graduates that “you have to learn how to act under great, great pressure. You’re all going to be under great pressure. You have to learn how to respond and to act under great pressure.”