Roses, drawings, and bags full of Valentine’s Day greetings were among the gifts given to Coast Guard officers on Tuesday on board the tall ship Eagle.
The event marked the close of the , organized by the City Center District to show appreciation for the United States Coast Guard presence in the city, including the , , and cutters stationed here. The effort began last month and invited residents to write letters of appreciation to the Coast Guard and put up signs with a similar message.
Frank McLaughlin, a member of the City Center District, read some of the messages at Tuesday’s event. One said that New London without the Coast Guard would be “like a cone without the ice cream.” Another included the sentiment, “Honor is a worthy sentiment. Besides, the uniforms are hot.”
Mayor Daryl Finizio said he thought Valentine’s Day was a fitting day for the city to recognize the Coast Guard.
“The United States Coast Guard is a gem not only for our city but for the nation,” he said. “And in the days weeks months and years ahead the city administration looks forward to helping the Coast Guard meet its increasing needs here in the city of New London.”
Capt. Eric Jones, commanding officer on the Eagle, said the tall ship used for training cadets has been in New London since 1946. It returned to the city on Saturday after an . Jones said there is a rich history between the Coast Guard and New London, and noted the upcoming bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the accompanying event that will recognize it.
“Hopefully this will be a great year where on top of celebrating this relationship with the Coast Guard and the city we can also help teach everyone a little more about the rich history, the maritime history, that’s gone on for well over 200 years,” said Jones.
"We're definitely feeling the love," he added.
Stephanie Gregerman, who has worked with the City Center District on the campaign, said the organization sought to recognize the Coast Guard in areas where it intersects with the community. A gathering was held on Sunday at , which has been proposed as a site for the national Coast Guard museum, and representatives also greeted the Coast Guard Band at their Sunday concert. On Monday, students at the presented Valentines to cadets.
“The feedback I have been getting just from some of the individual Coast Guard representatives, they genuinely appreciate it,” said Gregerman.
Coast Guard and the City Council
Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, visited the City Council on Monday with two cadets and a company officer to discuss the role of the academy and cadets in New London. Stosz said the academy’s goal is to keep a strong relationship between the school and the city.
“It’s a great relationship we’ve had over the years, and I’d like to say the Coast Guard Academy is nationally prominent and locally relevant,” said Stosz.
Lt. Ben Spector said community service is required of the cadets. Senior Mick Klakring, head of the academy’s community service department, said activities include work on Habitat for Humanity projects, tutoring at , assisting with free breakfasts at the , and cleaning up Williams Street. He said the freshmen and sophomore classes are also planning to put in a new basketball court at the Thames River Apartments on Crystal Ave.
“Finding that extra time to do that extra work, to go above and beyond the requirements we press upon them, is pretty impressive,” said Spector.
Brandon Wilson, a senior and division liaison working with , said the academy looks to provide positive role models for students. He said the academy is also considering working with the district to start an anti-bullying campaign.
“We bring a lot of special talent,” said Wilson. “A lot of cadets were involved in tutoring in high school and look forward to continuing that activity.”
Councilors thanked the representatives for their work. Councilor Anthony Nolan said the Coast Guard has contributed to youth activities he is involved in, and Councilor Wade Hyslop—who served in the Coast Guard—said the service also has an effect on the youth, noting a fifth grade student he met who hopes to follow her grandfather into the Coast Guard.
“I appreciate everything you do for us, not just for New London but for the nation as a whole,” said Hyslop.
Councilor John Maynard brought up the academy’s consideration of moving some services out of New London following the to the school, asking Stosz if the academy was considering leaving New London altogether. Stosz said the academy is working with the city to determine how it may be able to meet its expansion needs within New London.
“If we’re not able to expand, we’ll have to look at all of the options,” she said.
Council President Michael Passero said the Coast Guard and city have worked together for over 100 years and that he was hopeful for the future.
“The issues we have struggled with over the past two years, I’m confident we can work through those,” he said.