Cutter Vigilant steps beyond maritime boundaries to serve local and international communities

7th Coast Guard District NewsPORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Crew members of Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter, recently proved to their local community in Brevard County, Fla., that “service” means more than just stopping illicit drugs and illegal border crossings.

On a hot and humid Friday morning in June, more than 25 shipmates and family members volunteered to help the Brevard Zoo clear out large amounts of undergrowth and brush. The crew’s efforts assisted the local zoo in building a new zip-line course called the Treetop Trek Trail. With the scheduled opening in less than three weeks, Vigilant’s crew was instrumental in helping zoo officials meet their deadline. This was not the first time the close-knit crew of 80 Coast Guardsmen demonstrated how being a good shipmate goes far beyond the lifelines of the cutter.

In order to better serve the community, the crew of the Vigilant created a community service officer position on board the ship in the summer of 2010. Co-chaired by Ens. Christopher Gardner and Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Dean, the community service officer is responsible for organizing community service events in which Vigilant crew members and family can participate in throughout the year both at home and while at sea.

“We perform community service projects to not only improve esprit de corps, but to also help people in our community one step at a time. We joined the Coast Guard to serve our country, but we feel our job is never done, whether we are underway on patrol or home in Cape Canaveral,” said Gardner. “The true meaning of ‘serviceman’ is not just someone who does what he or she is told, but also goes above and beyond in serving others without having to be told. That is where the community service aspect fits in.”

In August 2010, nearly a third of Vigilant’s crew spent the day with volunteers from the Habitat for Humanity organization building a new house for a single mom in Melbourne, Fla. A few months later, another handful of volunteers participated in a beach cleanup project on behalf of the Disney Corporation.

In between those two projects, individual crew members proudly represented Vigilant and the Coast Guard by laying wreaths at a military veterans cemetery, throwing out the first pitch on military appreciation night at a local Minor League baseball game and running in 5K charity races.

Even while on deployment, the crew continues to give. Before leaving for a seven-week patrol over the Holiday season, Vigilant’s junior officers collected hundreds of toys and delivered them to children in Cartagena, Colombia, while the ship was there for a brief port call on New Year’s Eve.

Over the past two years, Vigilant’s operational success has matched its selfless devotion to service. During this time, Vigilant has seized 1,815 pounds of cocaine and 2,400 pounds of marijuana worth more than $28 million. Vigilant also interdicted 37 Cuban and 269 Haitian migrants, all of whom were safely repatriated to their respective countries.

Dean says the ship is planning another service project when it returns from its current deployment in September.

“Whether it is building houses or honoring a veteran, it helps us become better Coast Guardsmen. Helping our fellow citizens instills pride and fulfillment in our lives,” said Dean. “When we have that, we can perform the Coast Guard mission more effectively.”

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