My daughter, Lieutenant Maureen Katherine Hegerich, recently marked her nineteenth year in the United States Coast Guard. It seems a lifetime ago that this raw recruit showed up at the Cape May Coast Guard Training Center for basic training, but the tides of time keep shifting in fair weather and thick.
For anyone to dedicate nineteen years of his or her life to one’s country is a feat worth noting, not only because it marks a milestone, but because it represents a lifetime of untold sacrifices. And this is true for anyone who has served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps as well.
After basic training, her tours of duty took her to Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Cape Cod, and Washington, D.C. But her responsibilities flung her beyond these billets on a wide range of assignments far from family and friends.
Because of her exemplary performance while at Activities New York, she was awarded the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award on June 22, 2005. This Woman of the Year award was in “grateful appreciation, deepest respect and gratitude for her supreme sacrifice, dedicated service, and outstanding contributions to the national defense of the United States of America.”
Always hungry to perform beyond her own high standards, she applied for Officer Candidate School. Despite the incredible odds and fierce competition, in the fall of 2006, she earned a place on the roster of a school so selective and demanding, the chosen really are among a rare breed.
Many understand that Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut is designed to train and mold candidates into Coast Guard leaders with character, vision, courage, and intelligence. What the general public and many candidates fail to appreciate is how demanding and extensive the training is. Those who graduate from the seventeen week course are forever changed in ways only those who have passed through the rigorous training can understand. Maureen graduated in 2007.
Each member of the Armed Forces has his/her own unique story to tell, but there are common threads that run through all of them. Dedication to a way of life that is unique and demanding. Sacrifice which each member of a military family comes to appreciate intimately. Uprooting oneself and one’s family every three or four years when the clarion call of one’s country resounds is not easy.
General George Patton more than once cited the need to take advantage of one’s opportunities on the battlefield and off. I salute Maureen and those like her who do exactly that. They are serving or have served their country in whatever their capacity, whatever their length of service. We live in unusual and uncertain times, and though Congress has not declared it to be so, we do live in a time of war. The only reason we can lay our head on a pillow at night and sleep peacefully is the military who do their job, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year in, and year out.
Thank you, Maureen. And thank you to everyone from the Commander in Chief to those serving in military posts in this country and around the world. We owe a debt to you we can never repay and should never forget.