You all will be proud whenever you hear Semper Paratus, said our boot camp company commander, Boatswain Mate Chief Clarence Ward Hollowell. Thats the Coast Guards song. Chief Hollowell wanted to instill some pride of service into some of us less than stellar boots back in 1969.

Today, August 4, 2009, is the Coast Guards 219th birthday. Since its founding by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in the administration of President George Washington, the little Coast Guard has distinguished itself in many ways.

The lyrics to the Coast Guard song tell a story: Through surf and storm and howling gale/High shall our purpose be. The motto of the Coast GuardSemper Paratusmeans always ready. It was given to the service by a newspaper, The New Orleans Bee, in the 1830s.

How appropriate. In addition to the churches that raced to relieve New Orleans after the Katrina hurricane in 2005, the Coast Guard was early on scene. In fact, its one of the few federal agencies that nobody is mad at.

Two birthdays ago, the Coast Guard historian, Dr. Scott Price, issued a remarkable press release. In its more than two centuries of service to the nation, this small armed forcewhose ranks are less than the N.Y.P.D.is credited with saving more than 1 million human lives. The entire nation, including those of us who served in the Coast Guard, can be proud of that achievement.

Its hard to imagine that a government that is proud to announceand rightly proudthat it has saved one million endangered human lives could seriously be contemplating a health care plan that would force us all to pay for the destruction of human lives through abortion and possibly through assisted suicide. Who could be proud of that?