A military relief society received one of the highest public recognitions the Commandant of the Coast Guard can give for its response to the 2019 government shutdown and COVID-19 pandemic.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), the official relief society of the Coast Guard, was presented with the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award for providing support to thousands of Coast Guard members and their families who were affected by the 35-day partial government shutdown and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Adm. Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard, presented the award.
“During times of uncertainty throughout America’s history, our Coast Guard continues to perform critical missions that protect our national interests, promote economic prosperity, and ensure public safety; Mutual Assistance has stood by us throughout all these challenging endeavors,” Schultz said. “Thank you, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, for your unwavering support of our entire Coast Guard Community.”
During 2019 Department of Homeland Security lapse in appropriations, CGMA provided $8.4 million in financial assistance to more than 6,200 Coast Guard members and families. The funding, which occurred in just 35 days, broke all previous records of support, according to CGMA.
Active-duty spouse Kara Cawley Riemer reflected on the impact of the support for her family.
“You brought peace of mind to Coast Guard members during a very dark time,” she said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, CGMA introduced eight temporary assistance programs “designed to widen the financial safety net for the Coast Guard community.” COVID-19 related assistance has been distributed to 6,188 Coast Guard families, totaling $4.4 million — 80% in the form of grants.
Founded in 1924, CGMA has filled the gap in services for Coast Guard families. Originally called the League of Coast Guard Women, it was operated by the commandant’s wife who was the honorary president. It changed names one more time before becoming CGMA in 1979. As an organization, it has provided more than $214 million to Coast Guard families in its almost 100-year history.
“We are pleased to serve all members of the Coast Guard community whenever there is a need and are truly honored to receive the Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Award. For nearly a hundred years, our mission has remained unchanged … that is to help Coast Guardsmen and their families in need,” retired Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, CGMA CEO, stated in a press release.
The Distinguished Public Service Award is the third highest form of public recognition that the Commandant of the Coast Guard can award after the Gold and Silver Life-Saving medals.