The U. S. Coast Guard is an amalgam of services and organizations that began with the construction of the Boston Harbor lighthouse in 1716.
Alexander Hamilton is pictured and is considered the father of the Coast Guard. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, he established the Revenue Cutter Service on August 4, 1790. This service and the Life Saving Service were merged in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson.
The Coast Guard has the unique distinction of “saving lives” among its varied duties. Rescue scenes are depicted by the group of men in the water along with the helicopter. Firefighting on the open seas is also a duty of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is in charge of guarding America’s extensive coastline, the Great Lakes and three major rivers: the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio. The Split Rock Lighthouse and the buoy depict this tribute to the waterways. Since September 11, 2001 the Coast Guard has taken on an even larger role of protecting our waterways as seen by the gunboat and the SEAL team in front. The “Coasties,” as the Navy calls them, also are in charge of protecting our nuclear-powered submarines once they surface on the return to port, when they are the most vulnerable.
In the background is a convoy of ships. One responsibility of the Coast Guard is to keep shipping lanes open using ice breakers. The painting also pays homage to the Merchant Marine, a very important service that was given active duty service from 1941-1946. Their great service and sacrifice cannot be forgotten, and their casualty rate was the highest, per capita, of any branch of the service in WWII.
The Coast Guard also plays an important role in protecting the environment, as depicted by the seagull, polar bear and whale. You may remember their recent involvement in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Coast Guard Academy is represented by the woman with the bugle and the cadet climbing the ropes of the Barque Eagle, an Academy sailing ship launched in 1947.
Finally, the Statue of Liberty reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans come from the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.