The Coast Guard is an amalgam of services and organizations that began with the construction of the Boston Harbor lighthouse in 1716.
Alexander Hamilton (pictured here) is considered the Father of the Coast Guard and as the first Secretary of the Treasury established the “Revenue Cutter Service” on October 1, 1790. This service and the Life Saving Service were merged in 1915 by President Wilson.
The Coast Guard has the unique distinction of “saving lives” amongst its varied duties. The Guard is in charge of not only guarding America’s extensive coastline, but the Great Lakes and three major rivers: Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio. The Split Rock Lighthouse depicts this tribute to the waterways, as well as the buoy (tenders).
One of their charges is environmental protection, as depicted by the seagull, polar bear and whale (their recent charge of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one example of this). We see a couple of rescue scenes with the group in the water along with the helicopter. Firefighting on the open seas is also a duty.
Since September 11, 2001 the Coast Guard has taken on an even larger role of protecting our waterways as seen by the gun boat and SEAL-like figure in the front. The “Coasties” as the Navy called them also are in charge of protecting our nuclear powered submarines once they surface on their return to port—when they are most vulnerable.
The Coast Guard Academy is depicted by the woman with the bugle and the cadet climbing the ropes of the Barque Eagle, a sailing ship with the Academy since 1947.
In the background is a convoy of ships, and one responsibility of the guard is to keep shipping lanes open, which they do via their use of ice breakers. The ships also pay homage to the Merchant Marine, a very important service that was given active duty service from 1941-1946. Their great service and sacrifice cannot be forgotten, and their casualty rate was the highest of any branch of the service in WWII.
Finally the Statue of Liberty, reminding us we are a Nation of immigrants and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans come from the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.