Editor's Note: This article has been updated.
Ms. Deirdre Green is a member of the “Sistahs in Blue,” a group of African American women in the Coast Guard who came together on social media about 10 years ago. It’s an unofficial collaboration of shipmates who encourage each other by sharing “praise reports” and stories about Coast Guard history.
Green had retired about 10 years earlier, as a Storekeeper First Class after 20 years of active duty service. She’d been digging into Coast Guard history, especially stories about African Americans who contributed to the Coast Guard. She found an eager audience for those stories with the Sistahs in Blue.
“She was the pioneer of sharing stories to support others that look like you” remembers Coast Guard Cdr. Shameen Anthanio-Williams, the group’s founder.
The eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vince Patton, now retired, remembers talking with Green about the limited information documented about African Americans in the Coast Guard.
“From that point forward, she put the internet to work and practically on an almost a daily basis began finding stories of African Americans who served in the Coast Guard, either in high-level, high-visibility positions, or just those who served the minimal amount of time,” Patton said. “This in my opinion was the start of her ‘one woman show’ effort of educating the CG community - active, reserve, retired, veterans and civilians - about the importance of networking and exhibiting the pride in people who looked like us, and had proudly served.”
Green was talking with retirees one day, searching for untold stories about Coast Guard history, when she stumbled across the phone number of one of her heroes – Dr. Olivia J. Hooker. At the time, Dr. Hooker’s name was probably best-known as a Service Wide Exam answer. But Green knew there was a bigger story to be told.
Anthanio-Williams still remembers that day. “She reached out to other retirees to ask, would Dr. Hooker think I’m crazy for calling? She got the courage to pick up the phone. When she made that first phone call, that was it. One call led to another, then another, and they started a relationship that lasted for years.”
Green started sharing Dr. Hooker’s letters with the Sistahs, and the women would pray for Dr. Hooker when she wasn’t feeling well. Then the sisters decided to help tell Dr. Hooker’s story.
And tell it they did, starting with the "Fans of the Phenomenal Dr. Olivia J Hooker" Facebook page. Then came Sector New York's Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Dining Facility (2015), the Coast Guard Headquarters Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center (2016), and the fast response cutter Olivia Hooker. The National Naval Officers Association named a college scholarship program after her. Senior Coast Guard leaders started visited Dr. Hooker regularly. She got to meet President Barack Obama at a Coast Guard Academy graduation. And soon, she will be honored as the namesake of a Fast Response Cutter.
More than 75 years after Dr. Hooker enlisted, she’s now more than just a name on a SWE – she’s one of the Coast Guard’s most beloved trailblazers. “None of that happened until Ms. Dee Green made that phone call,” said Anthanio-Williams.
Many of Green’s other stories made their way to the Coast Guard historian’s website, where they can be read for many generations to follow. "Her support, guidance and help have been instrumental in all of what we've done to make sure we honor those who came before, said Coast Guard Historian Scott Price. "This part of our website is one of our more popular and her contributions have been crucial."
Today, Rear Adm. Joana Nunan, the assistant commandant for human resources (CG-1), presented Green with the United States Coast Guard Public Service Commendation. The citation honors Green’s efforts to preserve our military heritage with previously untold narrative collections.
“Ms. Green selflessly volunteered to collect, preserve and promote the history and heritage of the world’s greatest Coast Guard. Some of her many efforts included honoring the life and legacy of the first African American woman to enlist into the service,” said Nunan, calling Ms. Green “the people’s choice ambassador and champion for the Coast Guard.”
During the event, MCPOCG (Ret.) Patton also made Green an Honorary Chief.
The Coast Guard is honored to spotlight Green’s remarkable story – ensuring that it, too, will be told for generations to follow.