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Local Legion post offering free meals to Coasties

Alexander Sinn • Jan 12, 2019 at 2:00 PM

As of today, the federal government shutdown has become the longest in U.S. history, and local organizations are looking to help those affected by the funding stalemate. 

The American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven will be offering free meals to active-duty Coast Guard members on Wednesdays and Fridays, starting next week. The post is located at 700 S. Harbor Ave., across from the Grand Haven Coast Guard station, where dozens of local Coast Guard members may go without pay during the shutdown. 

The Coast Guard, unlike other military branches, falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which has faced a 21-day lapse in funding thus far as President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats grapple over border security.

Trump wants $5.7 billion to build a continuous wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, while Democrats and some House Republicans have proposed opening the government and settling the funding issue at a later date. 

Post 28 Cmdr. John Bilski said the Coast Guard personnel are family to the American Legion, which serves all current and former members of the military.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation that it puts some people in,” he said. “We’re hoping that everybody in Washington has cooler heads and considers the issues that they’re bringing to some of our friends and family here.” 

While the DHS ensured employees were paid in late December, paychecks are not guaranteed during the shutdown. 

Bilski said the national American Legion organization is offering low-interest, short-term loans to Coast Guard members who do not receive paychecks. At a local level, he said, Post 28 is exploring its options for providing help. 

Mike Smith, executive director of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, said there has been an outpouring of support from the community to help Coast Guard members. 

“The American Legion and its members have always been the perfect neighbors and brothers and sisters and role models for our hometown Coast Guard members,” he said. 

There are more than 80 Coast Guard members stationed in Grand Haven, including dozens of junior members who are less likely able to afford going unpaid. 

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