Editors Note: Coast Guard Training Center Cape May sent the follow “letter to the editor” to New Jersey newspapers today.
South Jersey Community,
Thank you for your continued and overwhelming support of the Coast Guard this Thanksgiving Day! More than 45 families and organizations will open their homes to approximately 190 of our Nation’s most junior military members. This commitment to our Service will not be forgotten by the staff here, and it will especially not be forgotten by the recruits you will host over the holiday.
We must also thank the staff of the Southern Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross who began coordinating the community’s involvement in Operation Fireside in 1981. A volunteer with our local Red Cross chapter named Ms. Gertrude Reiss heard the recruits would spend the Holiday season on the base, and she led an effort to place recruits with local families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since then, thousands of Coast Guard recruits have had a home for the Holidays thanks to Red Cross and the community of South Jersey.
For years, the people of South Jersey have lined up to host a recruit for the holidays, and we regularly receive more volunteers than we have recruits. This is an example of South Jersey’s commitment to both our service members and our Nation. I hope this year’s Operation Fireside families will continue to volunteer for years to come because this is one of the best ways to give back our service members.
Our new Coast Guardsmen will be conducting dangerous frontline Coast Guard missions in the U.S. and abroad within days of graduation. We prepare them by pushing them to new levels of physical, mental and emotional toughness. We make them Coast Guardsmen. The volunteers of Operation Fireside make them feel at home. For a service member separated from their family during the Holiday season, this is probably one of the greatest gifts of all.
Thank you again for your generosity, compassion and support. Semper Paratus.
W. G. KELLY
Captain, U.S. Coast Guard