Yes, it happened. I was subbing in an area school and they had a special Veteran’s Day assembly. It was patriotic, moving and … maddening. As they played the different songs for the different branches, I kept waiting for them to play Semper Paratus, for the Coast Guard. You know it because it’s the song you don’t know! But the band didn’t play it. Skipped right over it.
I was dumbfounded. How can you leave out the Coast Guard! We are older than the Navy!
Listen, I know the Coast Guard isn’t very big. You can take all their active duty personel and barely fill a typical ballpark. So I understand most people don’t notice us.
One year when I went to a special celebration in Memphis at a rather large church, when the band played Semper Paratus, I stood up, and was the only one standing. This was in a crowd of 2,500 people. So I get it.
We are the forgotten branch. So when one of us shows up, please don’t get upset with us when we make a point of pointing out… that we exist! We are military! We are veterans!
Today they invited all the veterans up to introduce themselves and tell everyone when and where they served. I left my position as a sub watching over the students and got in line! I wasn’t going to let them forget the Coast Guard!!!
I was the last in line, took the mic and said, “Hi, I’m Timothy Hammons and I’m a substitute teacher here today. I am also a veteran. Do you know what branch of the military you have forgotten?”
No one said anything.
I said, “You forgot the United States Coast Guard. I served in the Coast Guard for five years and faced 40-foot seas looking for lost fisherman. You see in the Coast Guard, we don’t have to wait for war to do what we are called to do. We are called to search for those who are lost at sea. In fact, one of the mottos of the Coast Guard is, You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
At that point, I gave the mic back. It was great that everyone applauded.
I also have to admit that it made my day! The students were curious about the Coast Guard and one teacher shared with me that both her cousins had served. I think she was glad I helped remember them as well.
Since they missed playing Semper Paratus, here is a good rendition of it. By the way, Semper Paratus means, Always Ready! I was definitely ready to set the record straight. One lady told me I was the only one they could hear clearly. Guess all those years of preaching helped!