Rockland man stands for Coast Guard pay, encourages local donations

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 2:45pm

ROCKLAND – “Something is desperately wrong with our country if we can’t pay the people who are protecting us,” said Ret. Air Force Major and Rockland resident Christopher Carroll.

Carroll has watched the proceedings of the nation during the current partial government shutdown. He has emailed his Senators King and Collins, and attempted to email the president.

Still, with such passion for the concerns of Coast Guard personnel, with such determination to not allow those volunteer protectors of the nation (since the draft ended in 1973), he is demonstrating a step further.

Carroll has taken a stance at the corner of Park and Main streets in Rockland. He is quietly sharing the plight of the Coast Guard, as well as requesting that residents take care of their own Guard members, in a practical way.

“They get that call on channel 16,” he said during a short break inside Brass Compass, where other customers have donated money for his warm beverages as he warms his toes.

“They are going to go out in these conditions,” he said. “This bitter cold and wind. Put their lives on the line. Voluntarily.”

The junior enlisted already live paycheck to paycheck, according to him. They have bills to pay, some of them have children.

Carroll, who moved to Rockland from Loring Air Force Base, remembers times from his own career when personnel held food drives before Thanksgiving and Christmas for the junior enlisted. Those food drives were done so those enlisted, usually 18- and 19-year-old youth, could enjoy a quality holiday meal.

And that was without a furlough.

“I cannot stand idly by and watch these people fall into deprivation,” he said. “I am compelled to do what little I can to help.”

Per policy, a member of the Coast Guard cannot give a fellow mate more than $25 per year, according to Carroll. 

Carroll wishes to see local residents flood Rockland’s Coast Guard Station with $25 grocery cards so that the 28 active members and ten reserves can put food on the table for their families.

According to him, the region’s District 1 station in Boston held a pop-up food pantry for Coast Guard active duty and dependents. In a very short period of time, 30,000 pounds of food was taken.

“That told me that this is an emerging crisis,” he said. 

When he heard this story, he immediately thought of the Soviet Navy, whose foods were rationed. Some units weren’t provided food at all, and the hungry stayed silent, retreating to their barracks and starving to death.

Though today’s active U.S. military members must keep silent, according to Carroll, he is no longer active. Therefore, Carroll uses his voice.

He paraphrased Luke, Chapter 3, verse 13, in a speech to Roman soldiers: ‘Don’t abuse your office. Don’t coerce people... Be content with your pay.’

“That’s impossible to do when you are not getting paid,” Carroll said.

Carroll spoke of how the government is currently operating. He spoke of his immigrant parents, his veteran wife, and his daughter who volunteered with Americorps. They all gave service in return for the good lives they’ve had in the United States, he said. But, he also spoke of the cousin who was wounded in Vietnam while in the Coast Guard, and also of the nephew who is serving now.

He said drivers have honked and waved as he stood at the corner on this, his first day out. He was touched when he had to explain to a man whose son is in the Navy that, yes, Navy personnel are being paid since they are within the Department of Defense.

The Coast Guard is not.

The man, according to Carroll, shed a tear as Carroll explained. The same thing happened with another man who stopped to talk.

“I can’t tell you how upsetting this is to me,” he said, as he teared up over the general issue. “So, I’m going to endeavor to be out on the street corner for a little bit of time every day.”