From the Homefront: Honoring Coast Guard spouses

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, commanding officer of Air Station Miami, for 13 years and currently serves as chapter director for Blue Star Families in Miami, Fla.

The Coast Guard Foundation honored seven exceptional Coast Guard spouses from District 8 at a dinner attended my Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and Mrs. Papp. Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Foundation.

The Coast Guard Foundation honored seven exceptional Coast Guard spouses from District 8 at a dinner attended my Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and Mrs. Papp. Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Foundation.

Written by Shelley Kimball.

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

Spring is a time of renewal so it is only fitting we take this opportunity in the opening days of the season to renew our appreciation for our military spouses. Over the past several weeks, Coast Guard spouses across the country have been honored by a variety of sponsors for their selfless work supporting Coastie families and, in turn, allowing their loved ones to focus on supporting Coast Guard missions.

At one of those ceremonies, Linda Kapral Papp, a Coast Guard spouse of 39 years and wife of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp, spoke of the important role Coast Guard spouses play in the success of missions.

“As the Coast Guard’s Ombudsman-at-Large, I know that the strength and resilience of our family members on the home front provides critical support to all of our Coast Guard men and women,” she said.

Without futher ado, let’s honor some of the amazing spouses that make living the Coast Guard life such an awesome experience.

Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year

Congratulations to Sonya McGough, ombudsman for U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team San Diego for her selection as the 2013 Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year.

Sonya McGough, ombudsman for U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team San Diego is the recipient of the 2013 Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year award. Photo courtesy of Sonya McGough.

Sonya McGough, ombudsman for U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team San Diego is the recipient of the 2013 Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year award. Photo courtesy of Sonya McGough.

McGough said the award is not only an honor for her, but a tribute to her colleagues who also assist Coast Guard families.

“I was very surprised, humbled and honored to find out that I had been selected,” McGough said. “To me, it represents the hard work of hundreds of ombudsmen who answered their own call of duty and are dedicated to serving our Coast Guard families. I’m so proud to be in their company.”

McGough, who works for the USO in San Diego, said her dedication to working with military families stems from her personal experience as a Coast Guard spouse.

“The first time I served as an ombudsman I simply wanted the opportunity to learn more about the Coast Guard and this wonderful military life we live. Years later, my husband and I were in a tough situation when our daughter was born. We faced many challenges during her first few years and counted on an endless number of resources and support services to assist us. On top of that, we had an army of friends and family who were there for us and got us through those hard times,” McGough said. “We quietly agreed that whenever we had the opportunity, we would always pay it forward. And so we have.”

As Mcgough said, there are hundreds and thousands of dedicated Coast Guard spouses who choose to take on the role of unit ombudsman. In the announcement for the Ombudsman of the Year award, the Coast Guard also specifically mentioned the following ombudsmen for their accomplishments supporting the families they serve: Kelli Collins and Christine Rodriguez, ombudsmen for Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk; Danielle Medolla, ombudsman for Air Station Kodiak; Erica Yarbrough, ombudsman for Sector Mobile; Lisa M. Bush, ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Dependable; Rachel Conley, ombudsman for the Surface Forces Logistics Center; Kimberly Coon, ombudsman for HITRON Jacksonville; Katie Quillen, ombudsman for Aviation Training Center Mobile; Joanne Wardwell, ombudsman for Sector Delaware Bay; Chelsea Billings, ombudsman for Cutter Alert; Amy Lee, District 13 ombudsman; Meara Baldwin, ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Spar; Cathlene Uhl, Port Security Unit 301 ombudsman; Veronica Case, Christine Irvine and Stephanie Stricklen, ombudsmen for Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell; Kelly Diguilio, ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Rush; Alma Buckley, Sector New Orleans ombudsman; Peggy Tuttle, another ombudsman for ATC Mobile; Michelle Belanger, ombudmsman for Air Station San Francisco; Maria Harris, ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Washington; and Laurie Giboney, ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Venturous.

The Coast Guard Foundation honors spouses

The Coast Guard Foundation recently honored District 8 spouses at a ceremony in New Orleans attended by the Commandant and Mrs. Papp. Usually, the Coast Guard Foundation celebrates heroism in service among active duty members. This year, District 8 decided the focus of its annual Foundation Awards dinner should be exemplary spouses who have not only supported families but also the missions of the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and his wife, Linda, celebrate the achievements of District 8 military spouses and the Coast Guard Foundation’s awards dinner. Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Foundation.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and his wife, Linda, celebrate the achievements of District 8 military spouses and the Coast Guard Foundation’s awards dinner. Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Foundation.

In her remarks, Mrs. Papp lauded the foundation for choosing to celebrate spouses.

“I am so pleased that the Coast Guard Foundation — an organization that does so much to support our men and women in uniform — has chosen to recognize tonight those who keep the home fires burning and who every day face the unique challenges of a military lifestyle,” she said. “To those spouses who are here tonight, and to those who follow, you will always have a special place in my life, and in my heart. Sometimes in person — but always in spirit — I will be there with you, and for you.”

Those honored by the foundation were:

Katie Quillen: As one of the ombudsmen for the Aviation Training Center Mobile where she maintains a Facebook page for the families stationed there. She also volunteers for Operation Homefront and, through her efforts, was able to provide school supplies and holiday gifts to Coast Guard kids in the area.

Sarah Tarveen: In her position as the ombudsman of Marine Safety Unit Huntington, she coordinates moral events for members of the unit away from their families during the holidays. She also helps families transition to the community by helping them find housing and schools.

Cara Doerr: She helped prepare families facing unexpected deployments on Coast Guard Cutter Cypress out of Pensacola, Fla., in response to Tropical Storm Karen and a natural gas rig explosion. She assisted with annual readiness training, acted as the point of contact for evacuations and helped keep family members informed.

Sedonia Cheatham: As ombudsman for Air Station New Orleans, she has helped families prepare for hurricanes. She also organized morale events for spouses. Currently, she is petitioning lawmakers to enact legislation that would facilitate military spouses’ credit transfers to college.

Hallie Conger: She has devoted more than 200 hours in support of families at Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur. She developed an ombudsman newsletter to keep families informed. She also led a campaign to provide school supplies for 70 Coast Guard children in her area.

Sofia Stitz: In the wake of the sinking of a towboat carrying more than 90,000 gallons of oil product in the upper Mississippi River, Stitz realized the Coast Guardsmen who responded to the emergency would be away from their loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday. She, along with other spouses from Marine Safety Detachment Quad Cities, organized a Thanksgiving dinner for the more than 20 people who had deployed in response to the accident.

Alma Buckley: As ombudsman for Sector New Orleans, she was a vital connection between command and families during Hurricane Isaac and Tropical Storm Karen. She also instituted a newsletter for the sector and volunteers to stand as ombudsman for the subunits that do not have one.

Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year

Military Spouse Magazine selected Danielle Medolla, ombudsman at Air Station Kodiak, as the Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year for 2014. Medolla has consistently stepped up to become an ombudsman at her husband’s duty stations. She said she looks forward to the year to come.

“It means more opportunities to advocate for Coast Guard spouses,” she said. “It is a privilege to be able to give our spouses a voice.”

Danielle Medolla was selected as the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine, seen here with her husband Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Medolla. Photo courtesy of Danielle Medolla.

Danielle Medolla was selected as the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine, seen here with her husband Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Medolla. Photo courtesy of Danielle Medolla.

The magazine also selected 180 spouses to honor at the base level for all military branches. For the Coast Guard, that means acknowledging exceptional spouses at the district level. This year’s district spouses of the year are:

District 1: Karin McQueen
District 5: Zinnia Narvaez
District 7: Dailys Cintron
District 8: Karen Allison
District 9: Jamie Secord
District 11: Tina Figueroa
District 13: Rachael Thacker
District 14: Christine Cole

Medolla said her work supporting families is an important part of her life because she has felt the benefits of being supported by others.

“I love paying it forward. My family has been helped and supported by so many coast guardsmen and their families,” she said. “I continue to be an ombudsman because I believe in the program. So much good has come from its growth. One should never underestimate the power of a supported spouses network.”

Congratulations to the all of the spouses honored this season. Please use the comments below to tell us about a Coast Guard ombudsman or spouse who has made Coast Guard life a little better for you and your family.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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