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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 30, 2024

Coast Guard names the 2023 Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Staff

Coast Guard Ombudsman Courtney Burgess has been named the 2023 Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year and will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 1.  

As a native of Pearland TX, Burgess represents the few who both live the experience of a Coast Guard spouse while providing resources and services to families on similar journeys.  

The award annually recognizes one of the Coast Guard’s 350 ombudsmen who have served Coast Guard families for at least six months and have demonstrated the greatest contribution to their units, communities, and families throughout that calendar year.  

Burgess’s award is well-deserved. She served her first full year in the position of the Sector Corpus Christi Ombudsman in 2023 and has been exceptional in supporting 473 Coast Guard members and their families throughout South Texas. During her initial 16 months in this role, Burgess has gone beyond the call-of-duty. And she’s excelled while being a wife to Senior Chief Petty Officer Zach Burgess for the last 15 years and raising two children: Avery (9 years old) and Blake (4 years old). She even maintains a full-time, fully remote position with PGA Tour. 

Since all the other ombudsmen across the Sector Corpus Christi area were transferring at the same time, Burgess volunteered to cover the nine impacted units and two detachments, spanning a 250-mile radius, while helping the commands and families to identify replacements.  

“Courtney approaches her volunteer responsibilities as Sector Corpus Christi’s Ombudsman with the same Respect, Honor, and Devotion to Duty on par with active-duty members,” said Capt. Jason B. Gunning. “She exemplifies the character we want of all of our members and dependents, and she strives to make the Coast Guard and Sector Corpus Christi better.”  

Burgess’s countless service projects and efforts to improve the Coast Guard community speak for themselves and shares Gunning’s sentiments. For example, at the beginning of the school year, she was informed that families throughout Sector Corpus Christi were struggling to afford school supplies for their children. Working closely with the Chief Petty Officer Association and Sector Wardroom, they collected, packed, and delivered over $1,400 in school supplies for junior petty officers’ families in need throughout South Texas. Her efforts ensured that 55 children were ready to start school with all the supplies they needed. 

There were other challenges she tackled for the benefit of Coast Guard families, including organizing a Halloween celebration for 30 families and 80 children at Sector and Air Station grounds. Also, knowing the challenges that come with being new parents, Courtney and the Air Station Corpus Christi Ombudsman facilitated Operation Baby Shower. She and other volunteers now ensure that families are aware of available resources to help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty they may experience.  

In December 2023, Burgess became aware that a handful of Coast Guard families may not be able to afford Christmas gifts for their children. Coordinating with the command master chief, they ensured that 23 children received gifts during the holiday season. Burgess’s kindness also extended beyond the Coast Guard community during the holiday season and in partnership with the spouses’ group. They collected toys for more than 147 hospitalized children, ensuring that 75 families could celebrate the holidays. 

Burgess credits her internal moral compass as the source of her initiative. “I believe it is important to provide a safe space for each spouse to share confidential information and know that I will provide the resources and support that they need,” said Burgess.