Legion posts step up to assist Coast Guard

Legion posts step up to assist Coast Guard

Each year, Kenneth H. Nash Post 8 in Washington, D.C., does quarterly fundraisers for various veterans charities. But Jan. 17, that fundraiser is going to focus on a very specific beneficiary: those members of the U.S. Coast Guard who didn’t get paid this week because of the government shutdown.

From 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on Thursday, Post 8 and The American Legion Department of D.C. will raise money for Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, which will then distribute the funds to Coast Guardsmen left wondering when their next check will come. The night will include live entertainment from Nashville recording artists the Wil Gravatt Band, a 50/50 drawing and a silent auction.

“We felt this would be a good charity for this quarter,” said Post 8 Commander Jason Secrest, an Army National Guard major serving on active duty at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. “The need is right there. It’s really unfair that we’ve got an armed, uniformed force that’s not being paid while all the other services under (the Department of Defense) are. We wanted to act, and act quickly.”

Secrest said the post’s effort “comes down to veterans helping veterans. We want people to come out and have a good time at this event while also supporting a great charity and great cause.”

Post 8 is located at 224 D St SE, Washington, D.C.

At the national level, The American Legion is providing expedited Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) grants to Coast Guardsmen with minor children in the home.

In Alabama, American Legion Wallace-New Post 76 in Mobile has reached out to active-duty Coast Guard members at three nearby installations to help those with minor children in the home apply for TFA. Currently, Coast Guard families are coming into Post 76 to apply for a TFA grant; however, Post 76 Adjutant Matt Gaff said plans are in the works for the post to visit the installations to provide assistance as the shutdown continues.

Gaff has filled out about 40 TFA applications from Coast Guard families with 25 dependent children since last week, when The American Legion National Headquarters authorized an abbreviated and expedited TFA application only for active-duty Coast Guard members with minor children in the home for the duration of the current government shutdown. He said many of the families have never been through a government shutdown, or one of this length, and they’re worried.

“That’s why we’re here to offer assistance,” Gaff said. “I want to make sure these people can provide for their families.”

Post 76 also is working with local businesses to prepare for needs Coast Guard families will have if the government shutdown continues, such as diapers, clothing, food, etc. “We want to be proactive instead of reactive,” Gaff said.

Other American Legion posts are stepping up in different ways to assist those members of the Coast Guard in need. Among those is American Legion Post 184 in Wildwood, N.J., which two weeks ago began collecting items to donate to provide to a local Coast Guard community that includes Training Center Cape May and seasonal stations in Townsend’s Inlet and Fortesque.

Post 184 Adjutant Vince DePrinzio, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said plenty of good-natured joking goes on among members of the different branches of the military. “But we’re all the same,” he said. “This hits us hard. We have a very good rapport with the Coast Guard base down here. We attend a lot of their ceremonies. We have a lot of good friends down there.

“When we were in service, if you didn’t get a paycheck you were like ‘oh my God.’ You had to borrow from here or there. Once (the shutdown) started, myself and (Post 184 Commander Harry Weimar Jr.) got together with Seaville Fire Rescue and said ‘we’ve got to do something.’”

Since then, Post 184 has helped collected non-perishable food items, diapers, toiletries and gift cards that are being used to stock a pantry set up at Cape May. In the first week 35 packages were collected from the post, while another 42 were collected in the second week. The items are being collected by the Chief Petty Officers Association and the base’s Spouses Association.

“It’s really helping them out,” DePrinzio said. “And while we started it, it’s not just us. (Donations) are coming from all over.”

DePrinzio said it’s the least he and others can do to assist the Coast Guard. “These people need help,” he said. “These guys appreciate it. And we’re going to keep going until they start getting paychecks.”

And in Grand Haven, Mich., Charles A. Conklin Post 28 is offering free dinners to members of the Coast Guard on Wednesdays and Fridays. The post made the offer more than a week ago but had to make sure the offer didn’t violate U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

Media reports state there are more than 80 Coast Guard members stationed in Grand Haven, including dozens of junior members who are less likely able to afford going unpaid.

“We are excited to support our neighbors and family here in Grand Haven, Michigan, the U.S. Coast Guard,” Post 28 Commander John Bilski said.

TFA grants are made possible through donations to The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. The foundation supports veterans and military families in need, as well as American Legion service officers who provide free VA benefits and health care assistance to veterans. Donations to the Veterans and Children Foundation can be made at www.legion.org/donate.