By Ryan Doucette, Voices @ Bedford High School
As of January 12, 2019, the United States partial government shutdown became the longest shutdown in American history. As of that date, for a record 22 days, government employees across multiple agencies have been furloughed or will be required to work without a regular paycheck.
The effects of the government shutdown may seem distant to many in the Bedford community, but there are hundreds of local people facing the shutdown’s wrath right in our own backyard. On Hanscom Air Force Base all 72 Coast Guard families (including my own) did not receive a paycheck scheduled for January 15.
For many of these families, the possibility of an extended government shutdown is troublesome. This crisis within the close-knit Coast Guard community is unprecedented for most. The last time the government shut down for over 20 days was in 1996…long before many current Coast Guardsmen even began their careers.
To ease the stress the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation worked to collect donations to help the hundreds of Coast Guard families impacted across New England. The non-profit dedicated to serving military members and their families used Coast Guard Base Boston in the North End as a temporary distribution point to get food to families in need.
I volunteered to help sort and shelve donated boxes of frozen meat, cartons of milk and cans of non-perishables along with various other foods into the storage closets and freezers of the Coast Guard galley.
Volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen can be an enriching experience when you know that you are making a difference in the lives of people who down on their luck. This experience, however, infuriated me more than it uplifted me: the people relying on the donated food are NOT down on their luck – they are members of our armed forces.
These heroes have no reason to need the support of their community except for the polarization of the government that has failed them. Members of the Coast Guard work tirelessly to protect our nation and its citizens yet Washington, D.C. cannot return the favor by passing a budget and making sure they are paid on time. Our leaders, many of whom have sat idly by watching this shutdown unfold, should feel ashamed of themselves.
The shutdown is unnecessary and it is dangerous for our nation. Political debates should take place in times of stability, not crisis. Hundreds of thousands of government employees, including all 43,000 Coast Guardsmen, will struggle to pay everyday expenses due to the inability of Congress and the President to compromise. The shutdown is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it is an American issue.
Although the approval of Congress and the President will surely plummet in the eyes of America after this debacle it is a relief to see the outpouring of support for the often-forgotten men and women of the Coast Guard. Communities acting together to support and uplift one another is a sign of the greatness of America.
I urge you to reach out to anyone you may know in the Coast Guard or any other unfunded agency to see how you might help them during this time of crisis. Families of all furloughed employees will need our support. If you want to see real change, don’t rely on Washington, start here at home.
Ryan Doucette, Class of 2021
Ryan arrived in Bedford last year and lives at Hanscom Field with his family. His father serves in the Coast Guard. He was born in Portland, Maine and has lived in a variety of places including Fairfax City, Virginia; Kailua, Hawaii; Guilford, Connecticut; Fort Dix, New Jersey and Vienna, Virginia. Through it all, he has remained a “huge Boston sports fan.” He describes himself as “politically active” and attributes that to the grandfather who got him involved with politics at an early age. In November he worked for the re-election of Governor Charlie Baker. At this point, Ryan believes political science, communications or journalism will be his area of study after he graduates.