Deep roots: Proud heritage woven in service

Written by Jennifer Davis, Coast Guard National Pollution Fund Center

Jennifer Davis. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

Jennifer Davis. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

I was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I am affiliated with the Ishak and Coushatta Nations tribes. My maternal and paternal grandparents were direct descendents of the Acadians of Nova Scotia, who also intermarried with Micmac Indians. Their descendents migrated during the Great Deportation, the forced removal of Acadians from Canada, and settled in southwest Louisiana, known as Acadia. Once settled in southwest Louisiana, the Acadians intermarried with the Ishak and Coushatta Indians, and freed people of color.

Growing up, I lived in two different worlds. One was as an Air Force brat, which afforded me a life of constant moving from one base to another, living in the United States and overseas and always making new friends or meeting up with old friends. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience other cultures and to make friends with people of all races and nationalities.

My grandfather was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. He worked all his life to end discrimination against all people. He was awarded an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts and he was loved by many people, of all races. He was well known as “the fix it man” in southwest Louisiana, and was referred to as “POP.” His funeral was held in the Catholic church that he helped to integrate, and his funeral was attended by many state officials. The funeral procession consisted of a motorcade of over 20 police officers and over 50 cars. He is buried in the St Anne’s cemetery, on the outskirts of Oppelousas, LA, a well known Catholic cemetery in southwest Louisiana for Acadians, Natives, and Creoles. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

My grandfather was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. He worked all his life to end discrimination against all people. He was awarded an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts. He was well known as “the fix it man” in southwest Louisiana, and was referred to as “POP.” His funeral was held in the Catholic church that he helped to integrate. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

The second world was living among my people in Louisiana. I would come home to my grandparents’ farm in Louisiana during the summers. They had a working farm and, believe me, we worked! From 5 a.m., until early afternoon, there was always work to be done, either with the various farm animals or with crops and such. In the afternoons, we would check on elderly or sick neighbors and either bring them food or herbs, or tend to their gardens or animals. Sometimes we read the neighbors’ mail to them as some were not literate. I believe this is where I first learned that it was honorable to serve others.

In the evening hours, we would sit on the front lawn listening to the elders tell stories about the old days. On Sundays, my grandmother would gather with her women friends and relatives and they would speak in their native language while the men would gather to play drums and music.

My grandmother was a master in quilting and gardening. My grandparents’ home was well-known as “the meeting place” for family gatherings and holiday meals. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

My grandmother was a master in quilting and gardening. My grandparents’ home was well-known as “the meeting place” for family gatherings and holiday meals. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

My family has served in the military since the Civil War. We have served in every war and in every branch of the military. Native people take great pride in military service and we have great respect and love for our nation. At every Pow Wow veterans are given a special honor.

I enlisted in the Army and served on active duty for almost 13 years. My parents and my grandparents were overjoyed at my decision to enlist.

Halfway through my 13th year of active duty, I had to decide to either stay in and be sent to Korea away from my children, or accept an early discharge, which I took in 1992.

I was extremely fortunate to be hired by the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) as an administrative assistant in 1992.

The NPFC has fiduciary responsibility to administer the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, manage the portion of the superfund that the Coast Guard uses and oversees the vessel financial responsibility provisions of the Oil Pollution Act.

My parents (foreground) and my aunts Pat and Marie at a Pow Wow in Kinder, Louisana. My father, actually my step-father; although to me, he was my one and only daddy, married my mother when I was three years old and was a career Air Force man. He was a flight engineer on C-130’s. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

My parents (foreground) and my aunts Pat and Marie at a Pow Wow in Kinder, Louisana. My father, actually my step-father; although to me, he was my one and only daddy, married my mother when I was three years old and was a career Air Force man. He was a flight engineer on C-130’s. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis.

It was a great fit for me because even though I was now a civilian, I was still able to be part of a military organization, which I loved. I believe my experience with various computer systems is what helped me land the job. After a few years, I was able to transfer from the administrative field into the computer division, where I performed various computer-related functions, and eventually was transferred to the NPFC’s financial division, where I am responsible for tracking all incoming collections, and run various reports from our database.

The NPFC is an extremely tight-knit group. Some of us have been with the NPFC since its creation – we are more of a family than just co-workers. It’s a great place to work.

I was also able to continue my military career in the Army Reserves. However, complications from injuries sustained during my military service began to catch up with me and I retired after 30 years of service. I am a 100 percent disabled veteran and a military sexual trauma survivor.

I believe the invaluable lessons I learned from my ancestors instilled the dedication to serve others and to be part of our great nation. They have also helped me endure in times of very painful experiences in my military career and helped me in my career as a civilian member of this great Coast Guard organization.

It has been a greater honor to serve my country, both in the military and as a civilian. I have learned so much from my Coast Guard shipmates, the most important is that we are all Americans first and share a deep sense of national pride.

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