By Officer 3rd Class David Micallef
The Coast Guard racing stripe is a globally recognized symbol upon the high seas, internal waterways and local communities. The racing stripe can also be found in rural neighborhoods throughout the country. Coast Guardsmen build the foundation of community relations and establish unique bonds with civilians in these neighborhoods.
Just off Highway 35 in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, nestled among homes and local businesses, reside the crewmembers of Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet. Living just a few doors down from the station is Noreen Nigota, a pillar of the local community.
Patriotism runs deep in the Nigota family. Noreen’s father, a Marine, defended his country on the front lines in Iwo Jima. Her brother, Allen, and her late husband, Ed, both served proudly in the Air Force. Noreen’s husband was laid to rest at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, New Jersey.
Noreen’s eyes well up as she speaks about her family’s service. Tears dribble along Noreen’s cheeks. A loving, warm smile emerges as she recalls fond, prideful memories of her loved ones. Noreen’s patriotism and love for her country are evident in her selfless acts of kindness through the numerous ways she supports her country and its service members.
Prior to Ed passing away three years ago, the couple would take nightly strolls. They would often walk by Station Manasquan Inlet and pause to observe evening colors with the crew. Soon after Ed’s passing, the crewmembers at the station presented Noreen with the national ensign in remembrance of her husband.
“I get choked up just thinking about that night,” said Noreen. “It’s like all of a sudden I had a family again.”
Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet
Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet
Today, Noreen keeps her and Ed’s ritual alive by making the walk alone in honor of Ed. She enjoys photographing sunsets and the crewmembers as they work on the boats. She’s enjoyed photography as a hobby for 15 years.
“Noreen is always out here observing evening colors,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Henry, a boatswain’s mate at Station Manasquan Inlet. Noreen and the crewmembers of Station Manasquan Inlet share another special bond. She enjoys cooking for them on birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. “She is more of a friend than anything else,” said Henry. “She bakes treats for the crew and then walks them down. Noreen is famous for her blueberry buckle pie — it’s amazing! When she brings over trays and trays of baked goods she is doing that all out of her own pocket.”
Noreen said she takes care of the crew because if her children were away from their family for a long time, she would like someone to do the same thing for them.
“I love them — they’re all my kids,” said Noreen. “I like to bring a little bit of home to them. If I start to think they don’t love me anymore, I bake for them to reassure them that I do. I never really expected to have such a warm, loving friendship with them. I only wanted to show them that civilians appreciate their service.”
Not only does Noreen bake delicious treats for crewmembers at the station, but she also helps new members get acquainted to the area. She is the housing supervisor for the properties in the neighborhood, which helps her aid crewmembers in finding a place to call home.
However, Noreen’s volunteer efforts aren’t just limited to helping local Coast Guardsmen — she strives to support service members everywhere. Her aspirations led her to creating the American Patriots Classic Car Show, a fundraising event she started with Ed six years ago. Noreen says Ed told her to pick a cause to support, and she chose the Wounded Warrior Project because it had a good purpose and believed in it.
According to the Wounded Warrior Project’s website their mission is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in the nation’s history.
The money raised from the car show goes directly to the Wounded Warrior Project to facilitate efforts, enabling them to provide specialized care to service members who need it most. Approximately 300 cars are on show at the annual fundraising campaign to support the troops. Since its inception, the car show raised approximately $20,000.
Noreen is not afraid to work hard, and she proved that by contributing in the cleanup efforts in the neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area in October 2012.
Hurricane Sandy was tough for a lot of people, including Noreen. The flood hit Point Pleasant Beach hard, but she rallied together with the crewmembers at the station and the rest of the neighborhood.
“I was so distraught,” said Noreen. “I didn’t know what to do because everything in my house was ruined, but the crew was right here to help me.”
The crew from Station Manasquan Inlet came by to check on Noreen after the flood and offered generators and even helped to clean up debris after the storm.
Noreen said the crew shovels the snow outside her house so she can make it to band practice and run errands.
The neighborly bond is strong between Noreen and the crewmembers of Station Manasquan Inlet. Together, they have overcome many obstacles and continue to support each other regardless of the circumstances.
“They bail me out and make sure I’m alive,” said Noreen. “They take care of me just as much as I take care of them.”