Sun Coast Chief Petty Officers Association coordinating relief for area Coasties affected by shutdown

The Coast Guard can't accept help, so the Sun Coast Chief Petty Officers Association is stepping in. Community support, they say, has been overwhelming.
Members of the Sun Coast Chief Petty Officers Association accept food donations from The Storehouse of America at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. The food will be donated to Coast Guard members affected by the shutdown. [Photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Tim Abrams]
Members of the Sun Coast Chief Petty Officers Association accept food donations from The Storehouse of America at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. The food will be donated to Coast Guard members affected by the shutdown. [Photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Tim Abrams]
Published January 23
Updated January 25

As the partial government shutdown drags on with no end in sight, hundreds of thousands of government workers are going without paychecks and need help. As a proud uncle of a member of the Coast Guard, the plight of those men and women risking their lives to protect the nation without getting paid hits home.

So, when a colleague reached out to me about a restaurant that wanted to help, I reached out to the Sun Coast Chief Petty Officer’s Association.

The Coast Guard itself cannot accept such offers of help, but I knew the non-profit association that benefits Coasties could.

And there is no shortage of need.

There are about 1,100 in the Tampa Bay area working without pay and nearly 5,000 across the state.

Even with national efforts, like insurance giant USAA’s $15 million donation for interest-free loans to Coast Guard personnel, many families are still struggling to make ends meet, said association president Eric Silvoy, a master chief petty officer with the Coast Guard.

“There are members significantly affected,” said Silvoy, speaking in his role as the association president. “It is pretty significant when the paycheck isn’t there.”

The good news is that there are also plenty of people coming forward.

“The amount of support we are getting is unfathomable,” Silvoy said, adding that his phone “hasn’t stopped ringing” with calls offering help.

“This is almost a full-time job,” said Silvoy of the assistance effort. “We have a lot of chiefs here and we have a duty to do. We are all working extremely long hours on top of our normal days. It is pretty humbling.”

Silvoy said that between Wednesday and Friday, the association, covering Coasties from Ocala to Sarasota, was able to help out 1,500 people with things like gas cards, food cards and food.

“We are receiving donations from food banks throughout Tampa Bay,” said Silvoy, a 16-year veteran who serves aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Appleby, where we first met.

Lee Ann Whippen, managing partner of the Deviled Pig barbecue restaurant in Tampa, said the stories of suffering Coast Guard families moved her to help.

“I figured there was something we could do so it dawned on me to contact our vendors and work with them and donate time and food and help out,” she said.

There are several locations where help is being offered. To find out more about the locations, or if you want to help, go to https://www.facebook.com/SunCoastCPOA/ or call Silvoy at (508) 333-2041.

• • •

Speaking of local organizations helping out, the Tampa-based Special Operations Warrior Foundation is sadly adding at least six more children to its list of the offspring of fallen commandos and support troops it gives college scholarships.

On Jan. 16, two U.S. troops, a Defense Department civilian and a civilian contractor were among those killed in a blast at a restaurant in Manbij, Syria.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach had four children and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York had two, said Steve McLeary, the foundation’s executive director. It was not immediately known if Army Ranger Sgt. Cameron Meddock, 36, of Spearman, Texas, who died a day later from wounds suffered in Afghanistan, had any children.

To date, the foundation, which also provides funds to help the wounded, has committed to funding the college education of more than 800 children. For more information, go to https://specialops.org/

•••

The Department of Defense announced the deaths of one soldier, one sailor and one DOD civilian who were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and one soldier supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York. assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, based at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland and DOD civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist, were killed in an explosion in Manbij, Syria Jan. 16. The Pentagon did not release the name of a civilian contractor also killed in the blast.

Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas, died Jan. 17, 2019, in Landstuhl, Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire during combat operations on Jan. 13, 2019, in Jawand District, Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Meddock was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 62 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel; 58 troop deaths and four civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one troop death in support of Operation Joint Guardian, one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; one death in Operation Octave Shield and six deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112 . Follow @haltman .

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