Coast Guard Million Lives Saved Campaign

Coast Guard Announces 1,109,310 Lives Saved Since 1790

In August 2007, at a ceremony celebrating its 217th birthday, the United States Coast Guard announced that more than one million lives had been saved by the Coast Guard since its establishment in 1790.

The number of lives saved was calculated by the Coast Guard historian’s office through research of logs and records from the Coast Guard, the Revenue Cutter Service, the US Life-Saving Service, the Lighthouse Service and other agencies that eventually became the modern Coast Guard. In addition to tallying the total number of lives saved, the historian’s office has compiled a list of the top ten rescues in the Coast Guard’s history. The list shows the breadth of the Coast Guard’s efforts to save lives in peril on the seas for over 217 years.

“When things are at their worst, America’s Coast Guard is at its best,” said then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “What began as a revenue enforcement agency with a fleet of ten cutters established by Alexander Hamilton more than 200 years ago has evolved into the world’s premiere multi-mission, maritime and military service. It’s fitting that we celebrate the Coast Guard’s 217th birthday this August 4th as we recognize its brave men and women for saving more than one million lives over the course of its long and storied history.”

“As America’s lifesavers and guardians of the seas, Coast Guard men and women commit themselves every day to serving our nation and its people with selfless courage and unflinching determination,” said Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard. “This year we celebrate a remarkable milestone in our history as more than one million lives have been saved by the Coast Guard since 1790. What began as America’s only lifesaving service charged with the dangerous duty of saving sailors from shipwrecks along our coasts has evolved into a modern-day, multi-mission Coast Guard that demonstrates the same commitment to saving lives that it did more than 200 years ago.”

The Coast Guard is one of America’s five armed forces and traces its founding to Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of ten vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of the federal revenue. Responsibilities added over the years included humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress and the service received its present name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the US Life-Saving Service to form a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.

“The saying ‘A life lived for others is a life worth while’ truly summarizes being a member of the Coast Guard,” said Capt. Jim McPherson, a Coast Guard spokesman. “For 217 years our brave members rowed through the surf to save lives or flew through storms to make daring rescues. Although the technology has advanced the common theme through the years is the heroism of Coast Guard women and men.”

Below is the Coast Guard’s compilation of the top 10 rescue videos of all time. “While this top-ten list is subjective, it certainly conveys the heroism of our people conducting this vital mission,” said Rear Adm. Mary Landry, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs.

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Are You One in a Million?

Here at the Coast Guard Foundation, which was founded in 1969 to support the United States Coast Guard Academy and later expanded its mission to serve all members of the Coast Guard– we are aware of and familiar with — the bravery of the individual members of the United States Coast Guard. The Foundation honors these acts of courage throughout the year at events across the country.

When the United States Coast Guard first announced it calculated the number of people rescued since its founding in 1790, a board member, Verna Kaye Gibson asked, “Are you one in a million?”

That question got us thinking…We started asking people we encountered and were impressed (but not really surprised given our knowledge of the service), on the number of people who count themselves, family members and friends among the million plus people who have been saved by the Coast Guard.

Some people have since passed away, but their legacies live on in their children and for many, their children’s children. All because of the fortitude of a brave group of individuals who go out when no one else will.

In the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to rush past this milestone- 1,000,000 is a big number to process. We see the high profile cases that remind us of the impact of search and rescue efforts- Katrina, Rita, the North Dakota floods; but everyday, across this country, Coast Guard members put aside their individual concerns and come to the aid and rescue of ordinary Americans, “so others may live.”

Now, in honor of the Coast Guard Foundation’s fortieth year of service to the Coast Guard, we are launching this campaign to collect the stories of the rescued and sharing them with the world. For every story in the newspaper or video on the nightly news featuring a dramatic rescue, countless more go unnoticed. This project- the “Are You One in a Million?” campaign, is an attempt to shine a light on these tales of bravery and heroism and celebrate the courageous efforts of the United States Coast Guard.

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