Coast Guard Commandant’s Memorial Day Message

Washington – Since the years following the Civil War, Americans have set aside a day each spring to honor the men and women of our Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. On Monday, 25 May, we will pause to remember those who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. We also remember the families—the parents, siblings, and children of the fallen who were left behind. We salute their strength and courage and hold them in our hearts.

This 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we still remember servicemembers like LT Thomas James E. Crotty, the Coast Guard’s last POW from World War II. LT Crotty perished in a Japanese prison camp in Cabanatuan City in the Philippines in 1942. This past November we finally brought him home to New York for burial with full military honors. We remember Fireman Second Class Gerald Clement Breen and his 192 Coast Guard, 56 Army, and one U.S. Public Health Service shipmates who lost their lives when the USS SERPENS exploded off Guadalcanal on 29 January 1945, the single largest loss of life in our Service’s history. We remember Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, who died in the line of duty alongside two U.S. Navy sailors while conducting maritime smuggling intercept operations in the northern Arabian Gulf on 24 April 2004. And, Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who was killed while interdicting drug smugglers off the California coast in the dark early morning hours of 2 December 2012.

We remember these Coast Guardsmen and their fallen brothers and sisters in arms from all branches of service, and remain incredibly thankful today to be living in the free country they preserved for us and for future generations.

This Memorial Day we may need to adapt our traditions as we honor the manners of our profession amidst a global pandemic. For example, here in our Nation’s capital, Arlington National Cemetery remains closed to the public. Though we may not be able to place a flag at the graves of our fallen, we can pause together at 1500 local time wherever we are to observe the National Moment of Remembrance and ponder, as a grateful nation, the ultimate sacrifice so many have made to defend this land.

May we never forget these extraordinary and selfless Americans who fought for freedom, safeguarded our Nation and our values, and preserved our way of life. While they gave their lives in our defense, may we honor their sacrifice and always remain dedicated to the principles which made, and keep, our country free. Semper Paratus.

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