Last week I was hired by an active duty member of the Air Force to photograph his wife’s Coast Guard graduation. It’s a gig I don’t always accept, but this one felt right. They’re stationed in Hawaii where I was sent after graduating from bootcamp. I always get a little nervous going back to the Training Center. So much of my history is wrapped up in the Coast Guard. Right under the surface is the ever present fear…am I going to get emotional? And the answer is yes, I will get emotional, the same way I do when I see a recruit walking around town or a new graduate at a local restaurant with their family. It feels like going home, like celebrating my family, like honoring the people who helped shape me and who, for better or worse, had the biggest impact on mine and my family’s life for the past 17 years. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to document this couple’s induction into Coast Guard life. They have a great adventure ahead and I’m so excited for them.
In 2017 I was allowed behind the scenes at the USCG Training Center (TRACEN) in Cape May. I had been there before in 2001 as a Coast Guard recruit. I served four years and met the girl’s Father while serving. He’s still active duty today, as a Company Commander at the TRACEN. I was on base this time as a photographer for a local magazine, which felt full circle in the strangest way. I joined the Coast Guard to become a Public Affairs Officer, but after being stationed on a boat I fell in love with navigation and living on the water. I became a Quartemaster instead and don’t regret the decision.
We’ve chosen to make Cape May our home, and although my time as a Coast Guardsman and Coast Guard spouse is over, this service will always be the biggest character in my story - at least the first 35 years of it.
Not to get political, but let me hit you with some politics. What’s going on in our country right now is disgraceful. This government shutdown and it’s impact on our active duty members and their families is the most tangible piece of evidence, during my adult years, that our leaders are failing us. I’m so proud of the men and women who continue to sacrifice each day, despite the government denying them one of their most basic human rights. I’m so impressed by the spouses who’ve stepped up to take care of each other. I’m so amazed by the outpouring of love and support from business owners and neighbors in Cape May County. Here’s a peek into the beginning of these young recruit’s career in the Coast Guard.