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Commissaries honor Coast Guard’s 229 years of service

Commissaries honor Coast Guard’s 229 years of service

Story by Kevin Robinson on 07/25/2019

By Tamara Eastman,
DeCA historian

Note: Go to DeCA’s YouTube page ( to see a video related to the Coast Guard’s anniversary.

To see photographs, go the agency’s Flickr page ( .

FORT LEE, Va. Military commissaries have served the U.S. Coast Guard for almost half of its existence, so it’s with pride that the Defense Commissary Agency joins with them in observing their 229th birthday Aug. 4.

“The Coast Guard has a unique and proud legacy of serving this nation as a multi-mission maritime force,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tomeka N. O’Neal, senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director. “We celebrate their 229th birthday and will continue to serve active duty, reserve and retired Coast Guardsmen and their families by delivering the commissary benefit they’ve earned.”

Commissaries have served the Coast Guard since 1909, some 110 years after Congress approved Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to build 10 cutters to protect the nation’s revenue on Aug. 4, 1790. The organization was initially called the Revenue Cutter Service. The name was changed to the Coast Guard in 1915.

The Coast Guard’s service is unique among the military branches because it is not a branch of the Department of Defense. In fact, it was a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department until after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Coast Guard transitioned to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. There it performs maritime law enforcement duties as well as federal regulatory duties.

The Coast Guard has never operated a large number of commissaries, with most of them located inside their exchange stores. By the early 1980s, the Coast Guard was served by 15 commissaries, 11 of which operated near the Atlantic Ocean, two near the Pacific Ocean and the remaining two near the Great Lakes.

In 1990, Congress and the Defense Department decided to consolidate the individual service commissary systems. With the formation of the Defense Commissary Agency on Oct. 1, 1991, service commissaries 411 stores in all fell under DOD control.

Through this consolidation, DeCA assumed control of the Governor’s Island Commissary in 1991, located south of Manhattan on the approach to New York Harbor, as well as the store at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. Governor’s Island was shut down during the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in 1996, leaving Kodiak as the sole commissary serving Coast Guardsmen and their families.

Since 1867, U.S. commissaries have existed on every continent except Antarctica in more than 1,000 locations. Today DeCA continues to serve the military and its families at nearly 240 stores in 13 countries.

To learn more about the United States Coast Guard, visit

About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.

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