The Coast Guard Foundation, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, exists to “rescue the rescuers,” says Brengle. They raise money to support the men and women of the Coast Guard, take care of their families and help their children attend college. Last week, after the tragic collision of a Coast Guard plane with a Marine Corps helicopter off the coast of California, it took the Foundation a mere 48 hours to raise $40,000 so that the relatives of the crew could fly to the memorial service. “We’re very nimble at being able to mobilize around a tragedy,” says Brengle.
Though the Coast Guard falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, it is not considered part of the Department of Defense, so funding comes exclusively from private funds and grants. “They’re one of the most under-funded branches of the service, and that’s where we come in,” says Brengle.
In addition to the one-in-a-million campaign, the Foundation hosts several annual events to raise funds and awareness of the Coast Guard. On November 12 it hosted a dinner in St. Petersburg, Florida to celebrate Coast Guard heroes, presenting an Exceptional Performance of Duty award to the crew of a cutter that interrupted a vessel in the Bahamas with 32 migrants on board. They also recognized the bravery of an aircrew that went 100 miles east of Cape Canaveral to save the lives of three drifting sailors aboard their 52-foot vessel.
In October, the Foundation hosted an event at the Marriot Marquis in New York, New York, where 700 guests recognized Petty Officer Ben Foster. The 24-year-old was at the scene in January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River. When Foster witnessed a passenger slip off of the icy wing into the frigid waters without a life jacket, he dove in, rupturing an artery in his leg. Though he was later put in intensive care, Foster ignored the injury at the time and continued rescuing passengers for hours. At the Marriott, he received the Meritorious Service Medal for his courage. In his speech, Foster said he was merely doing his job, “That’s why I joined the Coast Guard…the whole thing is bigger than an award. The most important thing is that we saved everybody that day.”
These rescues are a sampling of the heroic and selfless acts performed by the men and women of the Coast Guard every day. As the one-in-a-million website gains momentum, more people will be able to thank and honor the Coast Guard for their efforts as the Foundation continues to offer their support. As Brengle puts it, someone has to rescue the rescuers.