Military Life

Shutdown Stories – A Day in the Life of a USCG Family

At least for me and my circle of friends, the hot topic of discussion is the government shutdown. The profound effects of this partial shutdown have reached its fingers throughout more than just families of the Coast Guard. And while I would never wish to minimize or ignore the effect it has had on other families and other jobs, I can only speak from my own experience and the experience of those around me.

The Stories

“I’m not sure we can get this right now,” I say aloud to my husband, holding a pack of a feminine pads in my hands, realizing how ridiculous it is once it is spoken.

We went to Wal-Mart with the intention of only getting the bare necessities: flour, yeast, (so we can make homemade bread) and my prescriptions (particularly needed after just having surgery less than a month ago).

We chuckle as we checkout, putting the purchase on a credit card, just in case.

The fact is, this shutdown is difficult. In addition to the seemingly endless timeline and financial burdens, there are people online who harass Coast Guard families by saying things like, “you should have had a savings!” or “well, you’re not real military.” Etc. Etc. Most people don’t realize that the majority of those in the military make very little and live paycheck to paycheck, as do most of Americans. In my family’s case, we make what is considered below the poverty line. This has never bothered us, as we have done so for a very long time in the civilian sector. I always mentally chuckle when people assume we “make so much” working for the military. I made more on my own working part time for a bank than my husband does now, risking his life to save people around the clock. (To be fair, most of the time it isn’t an endangering job. But the possibility exists.) We all are aware of the potential, and for many, that is a constant mental burden. We believe that God called us to this life for a reason (which is to glorify and point others to Him!) and we trust that He will take care of us. But many people do not have a faith to cling to or a heavenly Father to trust in as we do.


Currently, leadership at our station up here in the frigid north has changed the work schedules to be as open to “days off” as possible to allow its members the opportunity to work a second job.

The S family here has two young daughters. Their father is enlisted at the station. He now has all of his time away from his duties spent working two other jobs.

The B family has two young boys. Their father is looking for work while managing his passion for volunteering at his local church. Their mother has taken on two additional jobs while managing their home education and learning about her chronic health condition. She was at the hospital this past week.

The H family has two young boys. As we approach potentially record-breaking cold, the furnace in their house has stopped working. While I can offer them my kid-safe space heater, it will do little against the upcoming cold. Now they must choose to use their savings for making up for their lack of pay or repairing their heating.

The W family has three children. Their enlisted father is away at required specialized training and is unable to get additional income for his family. Mrs. W could choose to get a job, but in this area, it is the off season, and the income must greatly exceed the cost of daycare for her three preschool aged children.

I personally have started doing commission work again, as it is something I can do with little physical exertion and I can do it from home.

There are two main reasons why I share this with you: 1. I want you to see that there is a severe problem with this situation, and 2. I want you to be amazed at how God has provided for my family.

We are not strangers to going without or having to rely on the goodness of God displayed in the generosity of family and friends. Within our first year of marriage, we were unexpectedly homeless. After 5 years of being in a our own house, my husband’s secure and well-paying job informed him that there were ignoring his contract and eliminating his position, just days after Christmas. The unemployment continued for nine months. And all throughout this, we were met with kindness and understanding, covered in prayer, and never went without a need being met. We never went hungry. We never went without a roof over our heads. I’m not saying it wasn’t tight or difficult. There were times where we had to decide how badly we needed to make the trip to the store because gas was short. My husband walked places to get what we needed. There were tears. Frustrated tears, yes, but also grateful tears. When my neighbor and friends gave me a box of cereal or had me over for dinner, it touched my heart in ways that, in a time of plenty, it could not have.


God took those bad situations and turned them into an opportunity to show me His power.


After his months of unemployment, he went to boot camp, and for the first time in my life, I lived alone. I was blessed with a part time job.

In the first three weeks, my dog and I were attacked by a dog on my normal walk, had vet expenses, listed my house for sale, was verbally harassed by lewd and sexual advances while at work, and had a miscarriage, all while being alone and without any contact with my husband.

When it came time for his paycheck, it was unexpectedly small. An error in paperwork meant he was receiving less than half of what he should have received – and which meant I could not pay the bills. All the while, I am cleaning and doing everything I can to pack up our house and prepare it for selling. When there were just two weeks left of boot camp, I finally knew where we would be living, and I immediately began searching for housing several states away.

And then came hurricane Irma.

That blue dot is where we lived. The dotted line was Irma’s projected path.

My family and I packed up headed out of state. Gas stations were backed up or out of gas. The road was filled with brake lights for miles.

In our tiny hotel room, where the door didn’t lock and my dad had to fix it, we housed me, my dog, my grandma, her dog, my parents and their two dogs, and my baby niece. I purchased an air mattress so I would have someplace to sleep.

We returned home to my parent’s home being completely trashed by fallen trees and debris. Even part of the fence had been picked up thrown away as a tornado went through their yard. It was the grace of God that kept every single one of those trees away from the house itself.

My air conditioner had been overworked during the storm, probably from debris and electrical surges, and it died two days after I returned. Insurance adjusters decided it wasn’t due to the hurricane, and I would have to either purchase a new AC for the house I was about to sell, or try to sell it in the middle of summer in FL without AC.

Friends, I do not tell you this to make me look good. It was hard. I did not get through it because I’m tough or resilient (although God has used these things to make me into a better person). I got through it because miraculously, through each circumstance, God placed people and events in my life to help me.

When we got to our a new station, God literally had a house saved just for us. When we met our landlords, they said, “You know, we’ve been praying for the right people, and we feel like God was having us hold out just for you.” Even with all of the other applicants, God worked for us to have a home right away in a foreign place, far away from any family or networks.

God took those bad situations and turned them into an opportunity to show me how He keeps His word and to build my trust in Him.

So no paycheck for a month? Two? My God has got this. He’s seen us through much, much worse! Since the beginning of the shutdown, we have seen our little community come together, blessing our station with food donations, gift cards, toiletries, baby supplies, and so much more.

I recognize that there are a lot of people who don’t have the community or network of support that has come through for me and shown me the love of Christ in action. I understand that there are those who are truly suffering.

So there are two things I do, and I would ask you to do the same.

1. Look for someone in need and offer what you can.

All of us in our little Coast Guard family are in the same situation. But in my case, I cut my husband’s hair. I’ve done hair cuts for three other people. It’s not much, but it saves so much money for others! Maybe you’re not the hair cutting type, but you can watch someone’s kids for a day while they job hunt, or even just spend some time watching Netflix together so you both don’t feel so alone.

2. Pray for our leaders.

There are so many things you can do to change the political climate of our culture and country, but none of it will make any lasting effect. While we should still do our part, the most effective thing you can do is make a lasting difference by introducing people to Jesus and by praying for those who make the decisions that shape this nation.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for being a part of my journey in some small way. I hope that this encourages you.

Get The Facts

There are several misunderstood facts about the Coast Guard, the shutdown, and everything in between.

The USCG is a military branch, equal and in partnership with the other four branches.[1][2]Unlike the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, which are all under the Department of Defense (DoD), the Coast Guard is under Homeland Security (HS). Unique to the USCG is its “maritime law enforcement mission (with jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters) and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set.”[2] Basically, in order to do what we do here as law enforcement, we must be a part of HS so that we can enforce and act as a law in the civilian sector without martial law being declared. It also gives us the freedom to patrol waters not accessible to our Naval vessels without it being considered an act of war. And, as necessary, our vessels can be taken under command of the Navy at a moment’s notice, so that we can have a “head start” into an engagement. An Alaskan rescue swimmer said, “In the Navy, it was all about the mission. Practicing for war, training for war. In the Coast Guard, it was, take care of our people and the mission will take care of itself.”[4] Unlike other branches which train and prepare for missions that may come, the Coast Guard trains and prepares for missions that happen on a daily basis, such a Search and Rescue (SAR), operating the National Response Center (NSC), interdict illegal immigrants, drug operations, or sex trafficking, among many other things.[5]

This is the first time in modern history that an armed service has gone without pay. [6][7]

Democratic leadership opposed paying the military.[8][9] No matter what side you fall on (or any place in between), paying those who risk their lives and must still be forced to work and who cannot claim unemployment, should be a non-partisan issue.

References

  1. “10 USC §101. Definitions” (PDF). Government Printing Office. 2011. (a)(4).
  2. U.S. Department of Defense website, accessed on January 25, 2019.
  3. Wikipedia, accessed on January 25, 2019.
  4. The Coast Guard Gets It Right Amanda Ripley. TIME. 23 October 2005.
  5. 2013 U.S. Coast Guard Facts Archived 2014-11-07 at the Wayback Machine
  6. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/coast-guard-becomes-first-armed-force-in-history-to-go-without-pay-during-shutdown/65-f5f113c1-9313-4914-a553-d94d4476a42c, accessed January 25, 2019
  7. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/151249, accessed January 25, 2019
  8. https://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=AA7D2616-F266-4D46-9652-44010081CCB3, accessed Jan. 25, 2019
  9. https://twitter.com/SenTedCruz/status/1088511483422609413?s=07&fbclid=IwAR18KJ59WeyRCEJiGuPLXe0iaWTzi0HivEkd3DUx8xBX0rEpPt2juxDk0xg, accessed Jan. 25, 2019

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