Crowell Elementary fourth grader Emily Van Gorder will never forget her recent trip to USCG Base Alameda for the commissioning of the USGCS Stratton. First Lady Michelle Obama was in attendance to launch the first Coast Guard cutter to be named after a woman, Capt. Dorothy C. Stratton, who helped establish the Women’s Reserve of the Coast Guard in 1944.
Emily was invited to the commissioning by family friend David Chovanak of the Coast Guard Reserve, who was one of just a few “invitation-only” attendees. Initially Emily, her mother and Chovanak had planned to meet Obama after the ceremony, but a horrendous rain storm scrapped those plans.
“She was so looking forward to it but she still got to see her up close and hear her words of encouragement. Emily says that Obama stood in the pouring rain and thanked a small group of retired USCG Women’s Reservists who were in attendance. “She said they were heroes,” said Emily.
Later Obama addressed the crew of the Stratton, which will be deploying to the Bearing Sea later this year.
“She told them that when they are gone their families back home will not be alone because we all support them,” said Emily.
Emily’s mother summed up the event.
“She (Obama) was a commanding presence but she was so gracious with the rain and wind. As soon as they escorted her to the podium her umbrella flipped inside out but she laughed and took it all in stride. There was supposed to be a lunch outside after she spoke but it was just raining too hard,” she said.
“At least she got a lot closer than many of us ever will, and she got to hear her speak,” said Crowell Principal Linda Alaniz.
Despite a missed opportunity to meet the First Lady, Emily said she enjoyed her experience. She had the rare chance to go inside a fully operational Coast Guard cutter — she said she got lost a few times, especially in the engine room.