Our Nation’s veterans

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft meets with Coast Guard veteran Bryan Williams on Nov. 10, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft meets with Coast Guard veteran Bryan Williams on Nov. 10, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft visits Commodore Bertholf's final resting place on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft visits Commodore Bertholf’s final resting place on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Today our Nation collectively pauses to reflect on the men and women whose service and sacrifice are the very foundation for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Earlier this morning I joined our Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, and other military leaders for a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Later this afternoon, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and I will participate in a ceremony at Coast Guard Hill.

Not far from Coast Guard Hill, I also visited Commodore Bertholf’s resting place. He brought our service out of WWI transitioning our service from wartime to a peacetime footing. I also stopped by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal’s grave. He is our Service’s most recent combat-related casualty, lost in the Northern Arabian Sea in 2004. The memorial at Coast Guard Hill and our heroes at Arlington honor an important time in our past, holding tremendous meaning for those who serve today.

As we pay homage to those veterans who have gone before us, we must also honor those veterans who have returned from duty and are ready to serve our Nation in new ways. They are leaders in our schools, our businesses and our communities.

Indeed, examples of the continued inspiration and strength veterans provide are all around us. Yesterday, I met with Coast Guard veteran Bryan Williams. Bryan shared with me his personal struggle to find his fit after leaving the Coast Guard. He joined Veterans Integration To Academic Leadership, a program known as VITAL, to help facilitate the transition from “solider to student.” Today, he is a student at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a member of the all-volunteer fire department of Purchase, New York, and aspires toward a career in emergency services management. Thanks to a dedicated team at the Manhattan VA Hospital, an innovative program and a service dog named Casey, Bryan is using his leadership and passion for community to make a difference.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft pays his respects to Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft pays his respects to Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Bryan’s is just one of many stories that typify what it means to serve – in and out of the uniform.

As we honor those who are no longer with us and those who serve our Nation in new ways, I would be remiss if I did not mention the team who makes up most talented workforce our Coast Guard has ever assembled. Each and every day, I witness their dedication to the citizens they serve and to those they serve beside. We are especially fortunate to have so many veterans and retirees as part of our dedicated team. I am proud so many chose to continue their service in America’s Coast Guard and their life-long contributions to Coast Guard missions. I could not be more proud or humbled to be their Commandant. They continue to answer the call to protect this great Nation and preserve our way of life.

Semper Paratus.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presents a memorial wreath at Coast Guard Hill on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presents a memorial wreath at Coast Guard Hill on Nov. 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

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