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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 9, 2021

Chaplain Kimberly Cain welcomes the stranger 

By  Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer 

A pandemic, social unrest, divisive politics, and waves of uncertainty have marked the past year, leaving many feeling unsettled. For others, such instability has heightened a sense that they might not “fit in,” wherever “in” is for them. Coast Guard chaplains remain a resource anyone – workforce or family members - who may be feeling fatigued, discouraged, or isolated, especially as COVID-19 lockdowns approach their one-year anniversary.  

Chaplains are confidential resources available to everyone in the Coast Guard workforce, as well as their families. They provide pastoral counseling and are great connectors to additional resources, both inside and outside of the Coast Guard.  

"Mental Health is a basic human right and human necessity, especially under the conditions of COVID -19," explained Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Cain, chaplain at the Coast Guard Academy. “I am a big cheerleader of mental health providers and am happy to connect those who see me with additional resources such as psychologists or social workers.” 

In addition to simply talking to chaplains, Cain also reminds people to celebrate their milestones, despite the chaotic environment surrounding us at times. Simply taking the time to celebrate you, your accomplishments, and how your perspective and experiences help make us the world’s best Coast Guard is important now more than ever. 

It can be easy to assume  

there is only one right type of Coast Guardsman. As a woman of color serving in a male-dominated field, Cain understands how it feels to not look like your peers. 

“I try to avoid the language of fitting in,” said Cain. “If you’re called to serve in the Coast Guard, then you’re in the right place.”  

In Cain’s opinion, it’s not about figuring out how to fit in, but how to live in the tension that comes with being different. This requires recognizing the value your uniqueness brings to the table. 

“Enjoy your femininity, your ethnicity,” said Cain. “You are a blessing. Bring your whole authentic self to the table.” 

While this is easier said than done, there is care available to help those who may be struggling to navigate and mitigate their stress.  

For those who may feel more different than similar to their peers, Cain stresses their value. “Like my call to ministry, if you feel called to serve [in the Coast Guard] the space is already made for you,” said Cain. “Do not apologize for taking the space.”  

Forms of oppression are intersectional. It is up to the entire workforce to constantly battle the various forms of oppression that exist—sexism, racism, ageism, xenophobia—to ensure everyone feels both welcomed and included.  

If you are struggling, chaplains are one resource among many outlets available to service members, employees, and family members. 

“If you want to say things without judgment and really take the ton of bricks off your chest—talk to your chaplain,” said Cain. “We are here for you. I may not be able to change the situation, but I’ll be there to help you through it.”  

The Coast Guard’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan is the road map for a Coast Guard “where all people are respected, empowered, and valued…that not only attracts the best of America’s diverse population, but fosters an environment that encourages America’s best to stay.” 

Creating a workplace where everyone feels included is up to each one of us in the Coast Guard—from civilians to active members to reservists.  

The Chaplain’s Corps is always open for those who need support, whatever the issue is they may be facing.  

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