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Bush Praises Coast Guard Graduates for Service in Challenging Times

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2007 – The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought new challenges and responsibilities to the U.S. Coast Guard, President Bush told the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2007 at its graduation ceremony today in New London, Conn. (See Video)

Bush told the 228 graduating cadets the United States has always depended on the Coast Guard, and needs it now more than ever because terrorists have made no secret of their desire to launch another attack.

“It's tempting to believe that the calm here at home after September the 11th means that the danger to our country has passed,” he said. “The danger has not passed. Here in America, we're living in the eye of a storm. All around us, dangerous winds are swirling, and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.”

Bush praised Coast Guard members who “know how to navigate the storm.”

The country is “counting on you to help America weather the challenges that lie ahead,” he told the new graduates.

The president noted the Coast Guard’s long history of service to the country. “Since its inception, the Coast Guard has conducted search and rescue missions, enforced our maritime laws, protected our marine environment, come to the aid of stranded boaters, and helped staunch the flow of illegal drugs and illegal migrants to our shores,” he said. “And in this new century, the Coast Guard continues to carry out these vital missions.”

He cited the Coast Guard’s extraordinary support in times of disaster, including Hurricane Katrina, when the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,000 people.

The Coast Guard launched a similar and also unprecedented response after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he said. Its members organized a massive flotilla of military and civilian watercraft and conducted the largest waterborne evacuation, from Manhattan, in the country’s history. It also assisted in operations at Ground Zero and coordinated an around-the-clock defense of New York Harbor and other vital ports, the president noted.

“On September the 11th, the home front you protected became a battlefront in a new and unprecedented war,” Bush told the graduates. “That day, our nation changed forever, and so did the mission of the United States Coast Guard. This service assumed new and essential responsibilities: to defend our nation against terrorist infiltration and to help stop new attacks before they kill our people.”

He noted that as part of Operation Noble Eagle, the Coast Guard is protecting more than 360 ports and more than 95,000 miles of coastline. Overseas, the Coast Guard is conducting maritime intercept operations in the Persian Gulf and patrolling the waters off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“The men and women of the Coast Guard are serving with courage, and the American people are grateful to live behind your shield of freedom,” he said.

Bush thanked the cadets about to begin their Coast Guard careers for becoming a part of that shield.

“You will take your oath as Coast Guard officers in a time of war, knowing all the risks your service entails,” he said. “I thank each of you for your bold decision to wear the uniform.”

The president offered a few words of advice to the new graduates.

“Trust in the power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror (and) show leadership in freedom's defense and character in all you do,” he said. He urged them to “be ready for anything” and to draw on the lessons they’ve learned at the Coast Guard Academy as they encounter new challenges.

“The Coasties who came before you never thought they would be organizing a flotilla in New York Harbor, or patrolling distant coasts in the Persian Gulf. Like them, you will serve in ways you cannot imagine today,” he said. “But if you bring the skills and creativity you learned at this academy to every task, our nation's security will be in good hands.”

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