Spouses to the rescue; Snacks on deck

NEW YORK – Lt. Justin Gear (left), Stephanie Parker (middle), and Cindi Smith (right) hold up the blue bags of care packages the New York Area Spouses Club put together for distribution, September 21, 2017. The Spouses Club collected snack donations and distributed care packages for Coast Guard members standing the security zone watch for United Nations General Assembly 72. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Allyson E.T. Conroy.)

NEW YORK – Lt. Justin Gear (left), Stephanie Parker (middle), and Cindi Smith (right) hold up the blue bags of care packages the New York Area Spouses Club put together for distribution, September 21, 2017.(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Allyson E.T. Conroy.)

by Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy

New York – For the past seven decades New York City has played host to the country’s largest National Special Security Event (NSSE) when Heads of State from all over the world convene for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Months of preparation with multiple agencies go into the planning and preparation for this annual event. Coast Guard units from around the country arrive into the New York City area to ensure maritime safety and security for the visiting dignitaries.

Numerous units from around the New York City area as well as maritime safety and security teams, and local law enforcement teams spend hours on the water enforcing security zones on the East River and the Hudson River. While standing an eight-hour watch, the various security teams are not allowed to leave their post. And that is where the Coast Guard Spouses of New York come to the rescue on Sept. 21, 2017.

“These men and women give so much, they spend their lives keeping us safe, serving our country, that we want to do something for them,” said New York Spouses Club President Stephanie Parker. “We want them to know they are appreciated. These care packages are just a token of how we feel.”

On this humid, late September morning, two club members, Parker, and Cindi Smith, the club’s treasurer, board a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat along with Lt. Justin Gear, Coast Guard Sector New York’s deputy chief of enforcement. Fourteen light blue bags filled with tangerines, baked goods, and energy snacks are gently placed on the deck of the boat. Their first stop is the Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay homeported in Rockport, Maine, and deployed to New York City for UNGA 72.

“These came in the nick of time!” said Lt. j.g. Michael Overstreet, the executive officer of the Thunder Bay. “Generally we are prepared to be underway for about four or five days at a time. We’ve been here for about seven days and our stores are getting low, especially the snacks. These will go a long way with the crew. It’ll certainly help out with morale.”

Overstreet’s words validated Parker and Smith’s mission and their hard work collecting the goodies and putting the care packages together.

Members of the spouses club made a request for donations from New York City Area Coast Guard families five days previous and were able to make the care packages just in time to distribute them on one of the last days of the security zones. While underway for this type of mission it is important for Coast Guard members to be prepared.

“Some of the more experienced crewmembers know what to bring with them,” said Smith. “They know they need to bring water and extra snacks while on the water for six to eight hours at a time. But some of them may forget to bring extra food, some of them may not realize how much they really need when they are out here.”

Parker and Cindi visited three cutters and four boatcrews from Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91110 Boston teams making sure those standing the watch are well cared for. Each time they passed a goodie back to one of the Boston crews, the men’s faces lit up, the appreciation more than evident in their eyes and their abundant “thank yous”.

“The Coast Guard is made up of people who feel the need to give back,” Gear said. “As a service, we do this on a daily basis within the communities we reside. But it doesn’t stop with the members. Giving back is something that is second nature within our family unit as well. The New York Area Spouses Club participates in a number of events within the community making Staten Island not just where we are stationed for the current moment in time, but OUR community, and THEIR Coast Guard.”

By the end of the day, the spouses make seven stops visiting four different units, and deliver all of their care packages to Coast Guard members standing the watch keeping the waterways of New York City safe during the UNGA 72.

“It can be hard work coordinating donations and putting the bags together,” Parker said. “But it is worth every second spent. We’ve been doing this for the crews standing watch for UNGA for the past three or four years. And we plan to continue to do this for them.”

The 72nd United Nations General Assembly concluded September 23 and most of the visiting Coast Guard units returned to their respective unit homes. The New York Area Spouses Club moves onto their next project with full hearts from this project. The feeling of doing something worthwhile for their service members buoying their spirits toward another adventure as they give back to their community.

Related Posts

Comments are closed.