Community Responds to Unexpected Challenge

The United States Coast Guard, originally created in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service, is the smallest of the U.S. military branches. Although not designated as the United States Coast Guard (USCG) until 1915, their proud history, the importance of their maritime mission, and challenging operations have never been in question.

Once part of the Treasury Department, then Department of Transportation, the most recent change in 2002 is noted by Department of Defense. “Part of the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, the Coast Guard operates under the Navy during time of war.” 

Notwithstanding discussions involved prior to making the above decision, it is unlikely anyone took into account the possibility of what happens to USCG members during a government shutdown. That reality came clearly into focus locally as men and women of Maritime Safety and Security Team Miami (MSST 91114), Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB), were faced with delay of their pay checks along with hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

MSSTs were established regionally to protect military load-outs, enforce security zones, defend critical waterside facilities in strategic ports, interdict illegal activities, and provide a degree of shore-side force protection as required. Tasked, equipped, and staffed to be agile with rapid response that ranges from individuals who can perform vertical insertion (“fast rope”) to piloting Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV) for underwater surveillance of hulls and piers, the threats they defend against don’t diminish based on political


For Robin Grahl and her husband Glenn, reaching out specifically to Coast Guard personnel during the shutdown was an easy choice. Glenn, who spent five years in the U.S. Navy and five years in the Navy Reserve before transferring to the U.S. Coast Guard, retired as a Captain. They well knew savings can be difficult, especially for junior service members with families. Without much savings accumulated, the delay of a single paycheck makes buying groceries or filling gas tanks a struggle.

“We also belong to the American Legion Riders,” Robin explained as enticing aromas came from the kitchen of the John G. Salley American Legion Post 43 in Homestead. “We had some money in the Riders’ treasury and decided what we could do was pay for dinner a couple of nights a week for the Coast Guard members and buy things like Publix gift cards.” They were careful about the type of assistance that could be offered, and support surged as word spread. Glenn, who previously commanded Coast Guard Regional TACLET South in Opa Locka, contacted them as well.

“We went to the Publix on 288th and in getting some gift cards, talked to Juan Moscoso, the Assistant Customer Service Manager. He was great and they’ve provided baked goods for our meals and to the families. We’ve had up to thirty here for dinner.”

Mondays and Wednesdays were the primary nights set aside, and Bob Hanke, current Post Commander, was busy grilling steaks for more than a dozen

service members who had already come in the evening of Wednesday, January 23, 2019. He spoke later about how even though they specified certain days, they would support whatever was needed. “This is a small gesture of gratitude for their service.”

Steve Samuels, Finance Officer for Post 43, was present too, and individuals who wish to contribute food or cash can drop those off at the American Legion, 399 S Krome Ave, Attention: Robin Grahl. Samuels keeps careful accounting and while everyone hopes the temporary restart of the government results in a lasting solution, there is no guarantee of what the situation will be in February.

“We have people who’ve lived in Homestead for thirty or forty years, and they don’t realize how often the Legion reaches out to different parts of the community,” Hanke said. “We provide meals at holidays, too. Yes, our focus is veterans, but more than that, it’s community. We’d like people to connect with us to learn about all our activities. Following our Facebook page is a good way to reach us.” (Telephone is 305.247.8233)

Another effort for Coast Guard personnel was from Texas Roadhouse, 33250 S. Dixie Highway, Florida City. They teamed with the Military Affairs Committee (MAC) of the South Dade Chamber of Commerce for one of their special fundraisers, Monday, January 28, 2019. These are the events when the restaurant provides ten percent of the food purchase bill between 4:00 and 9:00 p.m. from everyone who is there in support of the designated non-profit organization.

In other outreach, the Homestead Veterans of Foreign Wars Arrant-Smith Post 4127, 601 NE 2nd Rd; (305) 245-4535, also set up a box to accept donations for items like baby wipes, diapers, cleaning products, etc., and gas cards.

Despite the shutdown being temporarily over, many individuals and families turned to using more credit or dipped into savings to cover expenses during the uncertainty. Having extra stocks of essentials on hand for a few weeks from the contributions of the community can mean the difference in being able to pay down credit card charges or replenish savings.

Local and regional commanders were not authorized to make public comments about the impact of the shutdown. Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Vanderhaden, provided official statements which were available at